News Release

‘UNITE HERE!’ Union Bosses Forced to Refund Dues Illegally Seized from Nonmember Hotel Workers

Federal settlement also requires union officials to post notice informing employees of their workplace rights

Honolulu, Hawaii (December 15, 2009) – With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, two Honolulu hotel employees have obtained a federally-mandated settlement from union officials with UNITE HERE! Local 5 and its national affiliate.

Brenda Lee Orr, a nonunion employee of Turtle Bay Resort, and Grant Suzuki, a nonunion employee of Hilton Hawaiian Beach Resort and Spa, filed federal charges against UNITE HERE! Local 5 last year, accusing union officials of illegally forcing nonunion employees to pay dues for activities unrelated to workplace bargaining. Suzuki also alleged that union officials failed to provide him with a federally-mandated breakdown of all union expenditures.

Because Hawaii does not have a Right to Work law, union officials can require nonmember employees to pay certain dues. However, the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Communication Workers v. Beck holds that nonunion workers may not be charged for activities unrelated to collective bargaining. The Foundation-won Supreme Court decision Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson also requires union officials to provide nonmember employees with an audited financial breakdown of union expenditures.

Following a preliminary investigation of the charges by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), union officials agreed to a settlement that refunds all dues unrelated to workplace bargaining taken from Orr and Suzuki since April 1, 2007. The settlement also requires union officials to post workplace notices informing workers of their rights to obtain an audit of union expenditures and to opt-out of certain union dues.

Foundation attorneys estimate that union officials must now return approximately 60% of all dues collected from Orr and Suzuki under the agreement.

“After a lengthy legal battle, Brenda Lee Orr and Grant Suzuki have finally reclaimed a significant portion of their hard-earned salaries from these scofflaw union bosses,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, many Hawaiian workers are still unaware of their rights, so union officials will continue to collect more forced dues dollars from unwilling employees. Ultimately, making dues payment strictly voluntary through passage of a Right to Work law is the best way to end these abuses.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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