Alaska School Bus Drivers Win Three Year Battle to Kick Unpopular Teamsters Union Bosses Out of Their Workplace
Multi-year legal fight to remove union opposed by majority of workers shows need for reform of NLRB rules that allow unions to block workers’ from holding decertification votes
Anchorage, AK (December 9, 2019) – A group of Alaskan school bus drivers have just prevailed in their years-long effort to remove an unpopular Teamsters union from their workplace. The union’s ouster comes after National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal aid to Elizabeth Chase, the bus driver leading the charge to hold a decertification election so workers could vote out the union.
After workers sought for almost three years to remove the union, Teamsters Local 959 union officials finally stopped fighting the workers’ efforts by filing a disclaimer of interest with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle. The disclaimer came after the Region dismissed the union’s latest unfair labor practice charge following Chase’s fifth request for review to the full NLRB in Washington, DC, contesting the Regional Director’s continued block of a decertification vote at the behest of Teamsters bosses.
Chase is an employee of Apple Bus Company near Anchorage, Alaska. In July 2017, she submitted a decertification petition to NLRB Region 19 asking for a secret ballot election to remove the Teamsters as the monopoly bargaining representative in her workplace. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), if a decertification petition garners signatures from at least 30 percent of the employees in a bargaining unit, the NLRB is supposed to conduct a secret-ballot election to determine whether a majority of the employees wish to decertify the union. Chase’s initial petition was signed by more than 50 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit, far more than necessary to trigger a decertification vote.
The NLRB Regional Director blocked the decertification vote later that year, citing the Obama Labor Board-backed “successor bar,” which prohibits workers from removing an unwanted union simply because the ownership of an employer has changed hands. That “successor bar” is not mandated by the NLRA, which the NLRB is charged with enforcing.
Despite that setback, Chase and her coworkers continued their efforts to remove the Teamsters from their workplace, filing another decertification petition in 2018. This time, Teamsters officials moved to prevent the vote by filing successive “blocking charges” with the Regional Director, alleging unfair labor practices by Apple Bus. The Regional Director repeatedly allowed union officials to block a vote despite Chase’s pointing out that the Region failed to “explain specifically what causal connection(s) exist” between the petition and the union bosses’ allegations that made it necessary to stop the vote. All told, Chase requested five times that the full NLRB in Washington, DC, reverse the Regional Director’s decisions and let the vote proceed.
The NLRA, the federal law that the NLRB is tasked with enforcing, grants all workers the right to remove an unpopular union. Most restrictions manipulated by union bosses to halt decertification votes (such as the “successor bar” and “blocking charges”) are not established in its text but have been read into it by Big Labor-friendly Board Members under the Clinton and Obama administrations. Foundation staff attorneys have been fighting for workers for decades to eliminate these unfair, non-statutory limitations on workers’ rights to hold a vote to remove a union that has lost most workers’ support.
The NLRB is currently accepting comments on reforming the “blocking charge” doctrine and another non-statutory bar to decertification elections, the “voluntary recognition” bar. In comments to the Labor Board, Chase’s Apple Bus coworker Donald Johnson blasted the union’s ability to game the NLRB’s system to delay a decertification vote for years as “the most unfair and anti-democratic event I have been involved with in my entire life.” The window for submitting comments to the NLRB ends on January 9, 2020. Foundation attorneys have prepared comments they will file urging the Board to end both the “blocking charge” policy and “voluntary recognition” bar.
“The NLRB is tasked with protecting the right of employees to remove a union that is opposed by a majority of workers, but as this case shows us that right is undermined by non-statutory NLRB policies that allow workers to be trapped in union ranks for years at a time without even a decertification vote,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Though Ms. Chase and her coworkers are finally free from the coercive reign of a plainly unpopular Teamsters union, the NLRB must act quickly to roll back the undemocratic election bars and blocking charge policies that undermined their rights for almost three years.”
Seattle Housekeeper Wins NLRB Appeal Challenging Double Standard Promoting Coercive ‘Card Check’ Unionization
NLRB General Counsel finds Embassy Suites’ ‘neutrality agreement’ with UNITE HERE violated workers’ rights by illegally assisting union organizing drive
Washington, D.C. (December 3, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Seattle housekeeper Gladys Bryant has won an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in her case challenging the use of a “neutrality agreement” between union officials and her employer to impose a union on the hotel’s workers. Her case challenges a legal double standard that allowed union officials to impose union representation in her workplace through a coercive “card check” drive while obtaining assistance from her employer.
Bryant filed the unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE Local 8 union was installed at the Embassy Suites hotel in May 2018 through an oft-abused “card check” drive which bypassed the NLRB’s secret ballot election process. As part of the so-called “neutrality agreement,” Embassy Suites gave union organizers space in the hotel to meet and solicit employees. It also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from employees.
After NLRB Region 19 officials declined to prosecute the union or employer for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), Bryant appealed the case to the NLRB General Counsel in January 2019. In response to the appeal, the General Counsel found that the union’s “card check” recognition was tainted because Embassy Suites through the “neutrality agreement” provided significant aid to the union officials’ organizing efforts in violation of the NLRA.
The NLRB General Counsel agreed with Bryant’s Foundation attorneys that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid.” The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Bryant’s appeal successfully argued that the “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers. Thus, the General Counsel’s ruling applies “ministerial aid” standard consistently, no matter whether the employer’s assistance is in favor of or opposed to unionization.
After the tainted card check drive, Bryant and her coworkers collected enough signatures for a secret-ballot decertification vote to remove the union. However, they were denied that vote when the NLRB blocked their petition based on the “card check” recognition. The block was due to Lamons Gasket, a 2011 Obama NLRB ruling barring decertification for up to one year after unionization via card check. The Board is now accepting comments as to whether it should end or modify that “voluntary recognition bar.”
“It is long past time that the National Labor Relations Board put an end to this double standard that allows union bosses to abuse workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation Mark Mix. “The General Counsel is correct to finally recognize that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”
“As this case demonstrates, not only are union bosses willing to manipulate and ignore the rights of the workers they claim they want to ‘represent,’ their coercion has gone unchecked for far too long because of double standards in how the NLRB interprets the law,” Mix added.
Wisconsin Packaging Employee Hits United Steelworkers Union Officials with Charge for Illegal Dues Deduction Policies
Worker has challenged union’s dues deductions in federal court as violating federal law and Wisconsin’s Right to Work law; Attorney General Kaul has refused to defend Wisconsin law
Burlington, WI (December 2, 2019) – Wisconsin-based Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) employee Martin Carter filed federal charges against United Steelworkers (USW) union bosses at his plant for refusing to respond to his membership resignation and request to cut off union dues, and for maintaining a dues deduction policy which violates federal labor law. The charges were filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Carter submitted to USW officials his union membership resignation and request to end union dues deductions from his paycheck late last year. His new amended charge asserts that, for a year now, USW union bosses have refused to accept his resignation, and have never informed him of the time period in which they would accept the revocation of his dues checkoff authorization. The charge states that all of these actions are violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Carter’s charge also maintains that the dues checkoff authorization policy USW officials enforced itself violates the NLRA by limiting when an employee can cut off dues deductions to just a short period after the expiration of a monopoly bargaining contract, rather than at any time after a contract expires.
USW officials’ dues policy is already the subject of a lawsuit for Carter pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, also filed by Foundation staff attorneys. That lawsuit argues that the union’s dues checkoff rules not only violate federal law, but also Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, by not permitting employees to stop dues deductions at any time with a 30-day notice.
The part of Wisconsin’s Right to Work law that allows employees to stop dues deductions with 30 days’ notice is currently in jeopardy, following Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s refusal to defend it. In July, Kaul withdrew the state’s petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower federal court’s divided ruling that the provision was preempted by federal law. Carter’s lawsuit brings this issue back to federal court, potentially giving the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.
Kaul’s capitulation belies the promise he made while he was campaigning to be the Badger State’s top lawyer in 2018 that he would defend all state laws, even those that were passed on the watch of former Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. Public records show that union affiliates were the seven largest contributors to Kaul’s campaign, pitching in over $400,000.
“If Attorney General Kaul were doing his job and defending the laws of Wisconsin, rank-and-file employees like Mr. Carter would not have to file federal charges at the NLRB to challenge illegal dues deduction schemes,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union bosses must not be allowed to block the exercise of rights guaranteed to workers under Wisconsin’s popular Right to Work law.”
AT&T Employee Hits CWA Union with Unfair Labor Practices Charges for Violating Rights During Military Leave
Union officials refused to allow worker to resign his union membership and attempted to fine him for exercising his legal rights
Jacksonville, FL (November 25, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, AT&T employee Jared Brewer has filed unfair labor practice charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3106 for violating his legal rights. Brewer charges that CWA union officials illegally refused to accept Brewer’s legitimate request to resign his union membership and later used that as grounds to fine Brewer after he had resigned from the union.
Brewer was on military leave when union officials called for a strike in August 2019. He sent an email to union officials in which he resigned his union membership. Instead of respecting his legal right to resign at any time, a union representative falsely told him that his resignation letter was “untimely.” Brewer returned to work and sent a certified letter containing the same resignation language.
Then in an October letter, union officials told Brewer that they were bringing charges against him in an internal union “trial” for exercising his right to work despite the union-initiated work stoppage. Brewer did not attend the November 7 “trial” because he had already resigned his union membership and therefore could not legally be subject to union disciplinary procedures.
Union officials notified Brewer on November 15 that the union had found him guilty at its “trial” and imposed a fine of more than $700. Union officials threatened him with legal action if he did not pay the fine within 21 days.
Brewer’s unfair labor practice charge alleges that union officials violated his legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by attempting to discipline and fine him as a nonmember, in addition to denying his resignation of union membership. Under the NLRA, union officials are prohibited from requiring union membership as a condition of employment and workers are free to resign their union membership.
“CWA union bosses are blatantly violating longstanding law by denying Mr. Brewer’s request to resign his union membership,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Federal labor law is crystal clear: Workers have an absolute right to resign their union membership if they so choose and once a worker has exercised that right they cannot be subject to fines levied by any internal union boss kangaroo court.”
Oregon Foodservice Workers Win Appeal: National Labor Relations Board to Resume Prosecution of Unite Here Union for Violating Workers’ Rights
NLRB GC: Settlement NLRB Region 19 approved did not order sufficient remedies for Unite Here union officials’ illegal omissions in employee rights information
Portland, OR (November 22, 2019) — With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two foodservice workers at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, have successfully appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC, their case charging Unite Here Local 8 union bosses with illegally failing to inform employees of their rights.
The two employees, Terry Denton and Alejandro Martinez Cuevas, filed federal charges last August against Unite Here for violating federal law when union officials did not disclose the reduced amount of union fees employees could pay by refraining from formal union membership and asserting their rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. This omission, their charges state, illegally restrained workers in the exercise of their Beck rights by preventing employees from making informed decisions about whether or not to become union members.
Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees who refrain from formal union membership can still be required to pay some fees to a union as a condition of employment. However, union officials must follow the requirements of the Beck decision and cannot require workers to pay dues or fees for activities unrelated to the union’s bargaining functions, such as union political activities.
In response to Denton’s and Martinez Cuevas’s charges, the Regional Director for NLRB Region 19 issued a formal complaint against Unite Here officials in August, after which union bosses attempted to settle the case. The Regional Director’s complaint came after February advice memos from the NLRB General Counsel’s office which stated that the NLRB requires union officials to keep all workers apprised of Beck fee reductions.
The settlement the Regional Director approved, however, merely required union agents to post notices announcing that they would inform all future new employees of the reduction in union fees that would result if they asserted their rights under Beck.
Attorneys for Denton and Martinez Cuevas objected to the settlement agreement, pointing out that it did not require Unite Here bosses to inform current employees of the reductions in union fee payments they would receive by asserting their Beck rights. They also contended that the settlement did not permit current employees to resign their union memberships retroactively and recover dues that had been taken from their paychecks while they were kept in the dark about their Beck rights by Unite Here bosses.
Despite the objections, the Regional Director approved the settlement. Foundation staff attorneys then filed an appeal to the NLRB General Counsel, which was sustained on November 7. The General Counsel’s decision noted that the original settlement agreement did “not provide an appropriate remedy” and ordered Region 19 to move forward with the charges.
This marks yet another victory against union boss coercion for Denton, who earlier this year obtained free Foundation legal aid and hit Unite Here officials with federal unfair labor practice charges for demanding several months’ worth of illegal dues from nonmembers, including for months when the nonmember workers had not worked or had already paid in full. Union bosses eventually backed down and began waiving fee payments for nonmembers, but only after Denton filed her charges.
“While it is certainly good news that the General Counsel has ruled in favor of Ms. Denton, Mr. Martinez Cuevas, and their coworkers, it should not require an appeal to Washington, DC, to secure the right of workers to make an informed decision about union membership,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Future abuses of Beck can’t occur under a Right to Work law, which would ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.”
Boston College Electrician Hits SEIU Union, College with Lawsuit for Religious Discrimination in Forced Union Fees Requirement
Instead of accommodating employee’s religious beliefs as required by federal law, SEIU union officials and college administrators repeatedly ignored and violated his rights
Boston, MA (November 20, 2019) — Ardeshir Ansari, an electrician who works for Boston College filed a Title VII religious discrimination lawsuit today against the college and Service Employees International Union 32BJ, District 615 (SEIU) with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense staff attorneys.
Ardeshir Ansari objects to supporting the union based on deeply held religious beliefs. Under the local SEIU’s monopoly bargaining agreement at Boston College, however, he was told that he must join or financially support the SEIU or be fired. To avoid being fired, Ansari paid fees to the union, despite his sincere religious beliefs. Ansari is invoking Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against an individual based on his or her religious beliefs.
On October 1st last year, Ansari sent a letter to Boston College and the SEIU informing them of how his religious beliefs conflict with joining or financially supporting the union. He asked that his union fees be diverted to charity instead of being sent to the union, which is a long-established remedy for such a conflict. Instead of responding, the college continued to take a cut of his paycheck and send it to SEIU officials in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs.
In January this year Ansari filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the college and union officials, and the EEOC determined this summer that both Boston College and the SEIU had violated Title VII. In September, the EEOC gave Ansari a right-to-sue letter, which authorized him to file a lawsuit under Title VII against the college and the union.
Consequently, Foundation staff attorneys today filed a lawsuit on Ansari’s behalf against Boston College and the SEIU for illegally discriminating against Ansari for failing to reasonably accommodate his religious beliefs in violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit further alleges that because Boston College made paycheck deductions for the SEIU despite Ansari’s notice of religious objections, and because Ansari would have been fired if he did not pay the fees, their actions constitute quid pro quo religious harassment.
The lawsuit asks that the college and SEIU local pay all fees deducted from Ansari’s paycheck to a charity mutually agreed upon and pay Ansari for damages for the emotional distress he has suffered while his rights have been violated for more than a year. It also asks the court to prevent the college from continuing to discriminate against his religious beliefs and asks that the union be required to inform workers that those with religious objections to the payment of union fees are entitled to pay those fees to a charity instead.
“Workers who have sincere religious objections to joining or funding a union are legally protected from being forced to violate their conscience,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “No one should ever be forced to choose between keeping a job to provide for their family and violating their deeply held religious beliefs by supporting a union.”
“Ultimately, a Right to Work law that makes all union payments voluntary is the best solution to this type of illegal discrimination. That way, all workers who object to funding union activities are free to cut off such payments whether or not the nature of their opposition to the union is faith-based,” added Mix.
Mark Janus Files Motion Seeking Entire Seventh Circuit Appeals Court to Rehear Ruling Denying Refund of Unconstitutionally Seized Forced Union Fees
Petition for rehearing en banc filed after three-judge panel ruled that union bosses may keep dues taken from public employees in violation of the First Amendment
Washington, DC (November 19, 2019) – Today, attorneys representing Mark Janus are petitioning the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for rehearing en banc in the continuation of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. Janus seeks a ruling from the court requiring AFSCME union officials to return thousands of dollars in dues that they seized from his paycheck in violation of his First Amendment rights.
Janus, a former Illinois child support specialist who was never a member of AFSCME, won a landmark decision at the U.S. Supreme Court last June with free legal aid from the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. That ruling recognized that requiring public employees to fund union activities violates the First Amendment, and further found that the government should not collect such fees absent an employee’s “affirmative and knowing” consent. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority that compulsory fees “[violate] the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
Janus’ case continues as he seeks the return of fees that AFSCME union bosses seized from his paycheck without his consent since March 23, 2013. Janus’ petition for rehearing en banc comes after a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled earlier this month that AFSCME officials could keep the union fees from his paycheck.
The ruling in favor of AFSCME union officials is despite the Supreme Court never suggesting that Janus only requires prospective relief for affected workers. In fact, the High Court noted in Janus that union officials have been “on notice” for years that mandatory fees likely would not comply with the High Court’s heightened level of First Amendment scrutiny articulated in the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court decision, won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
If the petition is granted, Janus’ case will be heard before 12 judges of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable ruling in the case could have a massive impact, setting a federal precedent that would be cited in dozens of other cases seeking refunds of dues taken unlawfully by public sector union bosses. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 Janus-related cases that collectively seek over $120 million in refunds, including several cases filed jointly with attorneys for the Liberty Justice Center.
“Mark Janus is simply asking the Seventh Circuit to remedy the years of unconstitutional conduct AFSCME bosses have perpetrated at his and other public sector workers’ expense,” observed National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “Union bosses’ arguments do not change the fact that unions around the country are still flush with dues money that was seized in violation of public employees’ First Amendment rights.”
“Mark Janus and other government employees like him were deprived of millions of dollars while the unions took their money,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “It is critical for the entire Seventh Circuit to consider how Mark is finally made whole after AFSCME illegally took money from him and violated his constitutional rights for years.”
“The Supreme Court agrees with me – the union was wrong to take money out of my paycheck without my permission,” said Mark Janus, plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME. “The union knew what it was doing was wrong. The union shouldn’t get to profit from behavior that the Court recognized as unconstitutional.”