Union Officials and IKEA Charged with Keeping Employees in the Dark about their Right to Refrain from Union Membership
IKEA employees were never informed that they could not be required to join the IAM union and pay less than full dues
Elkton, MD (January 16, 2012) – With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, IKEA employees Kelvin Smith and Robert Rammel have filed federal unfair labor practice charges against their employer and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union. Smith and Rammel allege that IKEA and IAM officials failed to notify them of their rights to refrain from union membership and opt out of some union dues.
In Maryland and other states without Right to Work laws, employees can be required to pay union dues just to get or keep a job. However, workers also have the right to refrain from formally joining a union and opt out of paying for union activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as lobbying and political activism.
Not only did IAM officials and IKEA fail to notify Smith, Rammel, and their coworkers of their rights, they actively misled employees about their obligations to the union. IAM officials claimed that joining the union and paying full dues were required as a condition of employment.
Moreover, the IAM’s membership application hid a notice to employees about their right to refrain from full dues-paying union membership in small, hard-to-decipher tan print on the back of a pink form. IAM officials also told employees that their obligation to pay full dues superseded that notice, regardless of what the text said about federal law.
Finally, IAM officials threatened to have Smith and Rammel fired if they refused to join the union and pay full dues.
Smith and Rammel’s charges will now be investigated by the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency charged with administering private sector labor law.
“Union officials actively misled IKEA employees about their rights in order to collect more forced dues cash for the IAM’s coffers,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Independent-minded workers will continue to face similar schemes until Maryland passes a Right to Work law, which would ensure that union membership and dues payment are completely voluntary.”