Elkton, MD (July 29, 2013) – With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, several IKEA employees have reached a class-wide settlement with their employer and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union that allows them and their coworkers to retroactively resign from the union and receive refunds for any union dues spent on political activism since September 1, 2012.
The settlement is the result of unfair labor practice charges filed by four IKEA employees in January and February 2013 after union officials failed to inform them and their coworkers of their rights to refrain from union membership and payment of full union dues. Many workers were threatened with termination by union officials for refusing to join the IAM or pay full dues.
In Maryland and other states without Right to Work laws, employees can be required to pay union dues or fees just to keep a job. However, workers have the right to refrain from formally joining a union and opt out of paying for union activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as members-only events and political activism.
Not only did IAM officials and IKEA fail to notify employees 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.
When one worker asked about his right to refrain from financially supporting the IAM’s political activities, he was told by union officials that he had no such rights. What little material union officials provided to IKEA employees about their rights was deliberately obscured. Union officials printed information on employees’ right to refrain from full dues-paying membership on the back of a pink piece of paper in tan ink, making it virtually invisible.
The settlement requires union officials to return the illegally-seized dues to three IKEA employees and post workplace notices explaining workers’ rights to refrain from union membership and payment of full union dues. The union is also obligated to refund any dues unrelated to workplace bargaining collected since September 1, 2012 to employees who resign.
“We’re happy to report that IAM bosses have finally acknowledged that nonunion employees can’t be forced to join or pay for union political activism,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We encourage all IKEA employees who want to resign from the union to take advantage of this settlement and recoup some of their hard-earned union dues.”
“Unfortunately, this type of abuse will continue until Maryland passes a Right to Work law,” continued Mix. “Only then will union membership and the payment of union dues be completely voluntary.”
A copy of the IAM’s settlement can be found here.
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, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.