Nurses campaigning to strip union officials of their power to get nurses fired for refusing to pay union dues
Warwick, RI (September 23, 2009) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, a Kent Hospital nurse has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against a local nursing union for illegally attempting to coerce her and other employees into formal, full-dues paying membership.
The charges come just as the nurses are seeking an election to strip the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) Local 5008 union hierarchy of all power to compel dues payments as a job condition.
In the 22 states with Right to Work protections, employees cannot be forced to pay any union dues. The U.S. Supreme Court held in the Foundation-won Communication Workers of America v. Beck (1988) that union officials in states like Rhode Island, which do not have Right to Work laws, can lawfully compel nonmembers to pay union dues as a job condition, but not the part of dues spent for activities like political activism, lobbying, and member-only events. Union officials must also provide nonmembers with an independently audited breakdown of union expenditures, and nonmembers may challenge the calculation of the reduced fees.
Local 5008 recently disseminated a “Fact Sheet on Union Dues” to Jeanette Geary and other nurses at Kent Hospital. In the document, union officials told the employees that if they wish to exercise their right to refrain from union membership, they will pay only one dollar less per pay period than union members. But union officials never provided the nurses with the required independent audit of union expenditures necessary to determine whether they are being forced to pay more than allowed under law.
Foundation attorneys argue that Local 5008 union bosses have also implemented an illegal policy designed to force employees into “choosing” automatic deduction of monthly dues over the burdensome alternative of two lump sums paid semi-annually. Union officials have also informed the nurses that dues will be deducted automatically, even if they never authorized the deduction.
The National Labor Relations Board regional director in Boston will now investigate the charges and determine whether to prosecute Local 5008 before an administrative law judge. Geary is also spearheading a campaign to collect signatures from her fellow nurses to conduct a deauthorization election, which would remove the forced-dues clause from the contract.
“Sadly, skirting financial disclosure requirements and trying to coerce nurses like Jeanette Geary into union membership has become standard operating procedure for these union officials,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.