Elkton, MD (May 10, 2013) – On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Acting General Counsel issued a complaint against IKEA and the International Association of Machinist (IAM) District Lodge 4 union for failing to inform employees at the company’s Elkton, Maryland facility of their rights to refrain from union membership and the payment of full union dues, and threatening to have them fired for refusing to pay up.
The complaint is a result of unfair labor practice charges filed with the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys by IKEA employees Herman Brunswick, Jr., Kelvin Smith, Shawn Rojas, and Robert Rammel in January and February 2013.
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 members-only events and political activism.
Not only did IAM officials and IKEA fail to notify IKEA employees of their rights, they actively misled the 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. Faced with the prospect of losing his job, Brunswick agreed to join the IAM and sign a form authorizing the collection of full dues from his salary.
When Brunswick 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. After he learned otherwise, Brunswick resigned from the union and objected to paying for union political activities.
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 Acting General Counsel’s complaint seeks a workplace notice informing all IKEA employees in the bargaining unit of their right to refrain from union membership and the payment of full union dues. The complaint also seeks to require the union to allow all nonmembers to exercise their right to opt out of paying full dues immediately and provide retroactive reimbursement remedies to all employees in the facility who do so.
A hearing before a federal labor judge has been set for July 24.
“Union officials actively kept IKEA employees in the dark about their rights in order to collect more forced dues cash for the IAM’s coffers,” said Patrick Semmens, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President for Public Information. “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.”
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.