Ohio Worker Files Amicus Brief in Federal Lawsuit Seeking Return of Ohio Teachers’ Forced Union Fees
Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an amicus brief with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Ohio Department of Taxation employee Nathaniel Ogle. A copy of the brief can be found here.
The case seeks the refund of forced fees taken from Ohio teachers in violation of their First Amendment rights, as recognized in the Janus v. AFSCME US Supreme Court case, argued by Foundation staff attorney William Messenger. Messenger represents Ogle in a similar case in which Ogle is seeking the refund of potentially millions of dollars of forced fees taken from him and other state employees by AFSCME Local 11 union officials.
Illinois Care Providers File Final Brief Asking Supreme Court to Take Case Seeking Return of Illegally-Seized Forced Union Fees
Today National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed the final brief in Riffey v. Pritzker before the US Supreme Court conferences to decide whether or not to hear the case. The case is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case, and now seeks the refunds of seized union dues for over 80,000 home caregivers in Illinois.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix offered the following comments on the filing of the Petitioner’s Reply Brief today:
“Illinois homecare providers should no longer be forced to jump through legal hoops to reclaim their money that should never have been taken from them in the first place. The Supreme Court already decided in Harris v. Quinn that forcing homecare providers to pay fees to an unwanted union is unconstitutional in principle, and subsequently in Janus the court clarified that any dues taken without consent is a First Amendment violation. Riffey’s petition simply asks the High Court to apply the principles it laid out in Harris and Janus to the tens of thousands of Illinois providers so they can reclaim the over $32 million dollars seized from them.”
In February, with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, a group of Illinois homecare providers filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case in which providers seek the return of more than $32 million in union fees seized by SEIU officials in a scheme the High Court already declared unconstitutional.
The case, Riffey v. Pritzker, is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. In Harris, the Court ruled that a scheme imposed by the State of Illinois, in which more than 80,000 individual homecare providers were forced to pay union fees out of the state funding they receive, violated the providers’ First Amendment rights.
In 2014, the case was re-designated Riffey v. Rauner (now Riffey v. Pritzker) and remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not tens of thousands of providers who had not joined the union would receive refunds of the money taken from them unlawfully by the SEIU.
In June 2016, the District Court denied a motion for class certification. The ruling allowed the SEIU to keep more than $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from union nonmembers who had not consented to their money being taken for union fees. Foundation staff attorneys appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which also denied class certification.
In 2018, Foundation staff attorneys successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to review and reverse the Appeals Court’s ruling. The High Court did so the day after it issued the landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, ordering the Appeals Court to reconsider the case in light of the Janus ruling, which struck down public sector forced union fees as violating the First Amendment.
In Janus, which was argued by the same National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who is lead counsel in Riffey, the Supreme Court clarified that any union fees taken without an individual’s prior informed consent violate the First Amendment. That standard supports the Riffey plaintiffs’ claim that all providers who had money seized without their consent are entitled to refunds.
However, on December 6 a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court affirmed its previous ruling that no class can be certified for the more than 80,000 providers whose money was seized in violation of their First Amendment rights. The majority opinion, signed by two of the judges, denied class on the grounds that each individual homecare provider would have to prove that he or she objected to the taking of the fees when the seizures occurred.
In their petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear their case, the providers argue that Janus requires that the lower court’s class certification order be reversed. Foundation staff attorneys point out that the Janus precedent does not require a worker to prove his or her subjective opposition to forced union fees but held that the First Amendment is violated anytime union dues or fees are seized without clear affirmative consent.
Foundation attorneys argue that the case is of exceptional importance not only because it concerns the return of more than $32 million seized from some 80,000 homecare providers in violation of their First Amendment rights, but also because the lower courts’ ruling sets a precedent that could result in the denial of relief for millions of public employee victims of forced unionism.
All the briefs in the case can be viewed on the US Supreme Court’s docket here.
Employee’s Federal Lawsuit Against Steelworkers Alleges “Window Period” Policy Violates Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law
Lawsuit seeks to enforce Right to Work law provision that Wisconsin Attorney General Kaul refused to defend at the US Supreme Court last month
Burlington, Wisc. (June 4, 2019) – An employee at Packaging Corporation of America’s (PCA) Burlington, WI facility has just filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin against United Steelworkers Local 231 for enforcing a dues collection policy in violation of both federal labor law and a provision of Wisconsin’s Right to Work law.
According to Martin Carter’s lawsuit, which was filed with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, United Steelworkers (USW) union agents subjected him to a dues checkoff authorization policy that violates federal law by being irrevocable for longer than one year, and violates Wisconsin’s Right to Work law by not allowing employees to stop dues deductions at any time with a 30-day notice.
According to the complaint, Carter believed upon being hired that signing off on the dues checkoff authorization was a condition of employment. When he tried to revoke that authorization later and exercise his rights under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which makes union dues and membership voluntary, union agents stonewalled his attempts deliver his revocation letter.
Carter’s lawsuit follows controversy surrounding Wisconsin’s new Democratic Attorney General, Josh Kaul. Last month Kaul withdrew the state’s petition asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that part of Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which gives private sector employees the right to revoke their dues “checkoff” with 30 days’ notice, was preempted by federal labor law. Rather than defend Wisconsin’s law, Kaul sided with union officials whom reports show gave his campaign for attorney general more than $400,000 in direct contributions, with union affiliates being his seven largest contributors.
Kaul’s capitulation left standing a divided 2-1 U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that federal law preempts states like Wisconsin from protecting workers seeking to stop dues payments. Carter’s lawsuit brings this issue back to federal court, potentially giving the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to decide an issue that it was blocked from considering when Kaul reneged on his campaign pledge to defend Wisconsin laws, even those passed under the Walker administration.
“Martin Carter’s case shows there are real worker victims of Attorney General Kaul’s dereliction of his duty to defend all of Wisconsin’s laws,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As this case shows, union bosses play fast and loose with workers’ rights in their attempt to trap them into forced dues payments against their will, which is precisely why Wisconsin legislators enacted the Right to Work law’s provision giving workers the option of cutting off dues payments within 30 days of asking to do so.”
Milwaukee Workers Challenge NLRB “Merger Doctrine” that Blocks Workers from Holding Vote to Remove Unwanted Union
After being unionized through coercive “card check,” workers are blocked from holding secret ballot vote by biased NLRB rules
Milwaukee, Wisc. (June 3, 2019) – A clerical employee at trucking company USF Holland’s Milwaukee, WI facility has just asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn an NLRB Regional Director’s dismissal of her petition to hold a vote to decertify the Teamsters Local 200 union as the monopoly bargaining agent at her workplace.
Diane Damask’s petition, filed with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, challenges the so-called “merger doctrine,” which allows union officials to “merge” employees in a small bargaining unit into a much larger one to block them from voting to decertify the union. Damask’s request for review notes that the Teamsters performed such a scheme at her small clerical office in an agreement with USF Holland – without fully explaining the ramifications to the employees.
According to the request for review, Region 18’s dismissal of her petition wrongly stifles her rights because it “makes it effectively impossible for employees in such mega-units to exercise their…rights to decertify a union through a secret ballot election” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As the petition points out, this is not the first time the workers’ statutory rights to hold a decertification election to remove a union they oppose has been stifled by internal NLRB rules not mandated by the NLRA.
The Teamsters originally had scheduled an NLRB-supervised unionization election in January 2018, but then cancelled the vote after cutting a backroom deal with USF Holland to bypass the protections of a secret ballot vote, and instead unionize the workers through the coercive “card check” process. Upset by the situation, Damask and her colleagues quickly circulated a petition to trigger a secret ballot decertification vote only to be told by the NLRB that – under the controversial “voluntary recognition” bar adopted by the Obama NLRB – the workers would have to wait up to a full year before they could file a petition.
Having waited a full year for the NLRB-created “bar” after a card check to expire, now the workers – a majority of whom signed the decertification petition – find themselves blocked again from holding a secret ballot vote by a merger agreement over which they had no real say. In fact, it was not until after Damask had her decertification petition rejected that she learned that, according the merger agreement, she and her eight coworkers at their facility were now deemed part of a nationwide “mega-unit” of approximately 24,000 employees working for multiple employers.
Because triggering a decertification vote requires the signatures of thirty percent of workers in the bargaining unit, under the “merger” such a petition is virtually impossible as she would need to collect 7,000 signatures from workers across the country she has no way of even locating.
Damask’s petition argues that the Teamsters and USF Holland improperly “‘waived’ the Milwaukee clerical employees’ rights under the [NLRA] to decertify an unwanted union” and that “if the…clerical employees constituted a separate appropriate unit for purposes of selecting the Teamsters to represent them…the Board should still consider them a(n)…appropriate unit for purposes of removing the union.”
“This case shows how union bosses, aided by biased NLRB-concocted rules, can trap workers in union ranks for years even when a majority of the workers want out,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “It’s time for the NLRB to stop dragging its feet and reform its arbitrary rules, including the so-called ‘merger doctrine,’ that are being used to eviscerate workers’ statutory right under the National Labor Relations Act to hold a vote to remove a union opposed by a majority of employees.”
Transportation Worker Asks Federal Labor Board to Review “Settlement Bar” Doctrine that Blocks Votes to Remove Union
Employees’ right under National Labor Relations Act to hold decertification vote is blocked by settlement between union and company
Chicago, IL (June 3, 2019) – An employee at Langer Transport Corporation’s Joliet, IL, facility has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to review a ruling by NLRB Region 13 that blocks workers at the company from holding a vote to remove the Teamsters from their workplace.
Angelika Van Meeteren’s petition comes after the Teamsters union officials and Langer last October settled earlier unfair labor practice charges filed by the union against Langer. The agreement included a “settlement bar” clause immunizing the union from any decertification attempts for an entire year.
Van Meeteren and her coworkers who want the decertification vote were not parties to the agreement. Although not authorized by the National Labor Relations Act, prior NLRB actions created the so-called “settlement bar” doctrine, which denies workers their right to hold a vote to remove a union for a period of time after the settlement of charges filed against the employer. The bar is often imposed even when the settlement does not contain any admission that the employer violated the law.
Van Meeteren’s petition, which was filed with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, argues that settlement decertification bars “have no basis in the [National Labor Relations] Act” and “offend basic principles of justice” because they prevent employees from exercising their right to hold a decertification vote simply because a company and a union came to an agreement forbidding it — without any input from the employees. That right is guarded by Section 7 of the NLRA, which explicitly protects “the right to refrain from” union representation.
Foundation staff attorneys have fought “settlement bars” on a number of fronts, most recently in a federal lawsuit filed for Marcia Williams and Karen Wunz, two Pennsylvania school bus drivers whose decertification petition was blocked by the NLRB after their employer Krise Transportation came to a settlement with Teamsters Local 397. That lawsuit was eventually deemed moot, because the bar expired while the litigation was proceeding, thus allowing the workers to hold a vote. The Foundation also sent a letter to the NLRB last December requesting that future rulemaking by the Board address “settlement bars” and their inherent conflicts with the NLRA.
“The NLRB-concocted ‘settlement bar’ doctrine is an assault on fundamental fairness by restricting workers’ legal right to remove an unpopular union solely because of unproven allegations made against their employer by union officials,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The Act is supposed to protect the right of workers to join or reject a union. Punishing Angelika Van Meeteren and her coworkers by blocking their petition to vote out a union they oppose, despite the fact no one even alleges the workers broke any law, is totally contrary to that fundamental purpose.”
Workers file NLRB charges against UFCW union for failing to follow Supreme Court precedent requiring disclosures about dues demands
Washington, D.C. (May 30, 2019) – Two separate unfair labor practice charges just filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against two locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) suggest widespread violations of workers’ legal rights by UFCW union officials.
The charges, filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, state union officials failed to provide legally required breakdowns of how forced union fees were calculated as mandated by the 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court case. Under the National Labor Relations Act and the National Right to Work Foundation-won Beck case, union officials must provide an audited financial breakdown to justify the amount of the union fees that they force nonmember workers to pay as a condition of employment.
Salem, Oregon Safeway employee Harvey Henry filed his NLRB charge against UFCW Local 555. In response to an April 18 letter sent by Henry objecting to full union dues and resigning his membership in the union, UFCW officials acknowledged his letter but simply quoted again what “he owes rather than providing him with the requisite financial ‘breakdown.’”
Similarly, Carolee Buckley, who works at the Plattdeutsche Home Society retirement home in Franklin Square, NY, sent a letter last October to UFCW Local 2013 union officials resigning her union membership and objecting to all dues beyond what union officials can legally require her to pay. Her charge states that, in the nearly seven months since that time, UFCW officials have not given her the required breakdown of how the fees they are demanding she pay are calculated.
The charges are not the only cases currently pending against the UFCW for this type of violation. Last May, a 16-year-old Safeway clerk from Danville, CA filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against UFCW Local 5 for failing to provide him with a breakdown of compulsory fees following his resignation, also with Foundation aid. In April, the NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint against UFCW Local 5 to prosecute the union for violating the clerk’s rights, with a trial set to begin soon.
All three employees work in states – Oregon, New York and California – that lack Right to Work laws, which make union membership and financial support completely voluntary. Despite the lack of Right to Work protections for workers, even in forced dues states union officials must provide certain disclosures to workers to justify the amount of the forced union fees, but the unfair labor practice charges say UFCW union officials are not complying with that requirement.
“As these three cases demonstrate, UFCW union bosses are willing to violate the rights of the very workers they claim to represent, just to fill their coffers with more forced union dues,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These cases show why workers nationwide need the protection of Right to Work laws, which make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary. As long as union officials can force workers to pay even a portion of full union dues as a condition of employment, greedy Big Labor bosses will continue to cook the books and keep workers in the dark about the restrictions on their privileges to force nonmembers to fund their agenda.”
Supreme Court Asked to Hear Challenge to Washington State Scheme Forcing Childcare Providers Under SEIU Union Representation
High Court should apply First Amendment scrutiny and strike down law forcing childcare business owners to associate with SEIU
Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2019) – A Washington State childcare provider is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Miller v. Inslee, a case which challenges the state’s requirement that businesses which receive state funds for providing childcare to low-income families accept the monopoly representation of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU). The Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for plaintiff Katherine Miller, who is challenging the scheme as a violation of her First Amendment rights of free speech and association.
Miller, who runs a childcare business from her home, is deemed a “public employee” by the State of Washington solely because part of her business revenue includes subsidies the state provides to low-income families to be used on childcare. As a result, Washington granted SEIU union officials the power to force her under their union monopoly bargaining scheme and dictate the terms of how she runs her home-based business.
The petition asks the court to hold government-mandated forced “representation” to the same First Amendment standard that led the Supreme Court to find in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision that forced union fees violate the First Amendment. In that ruling, the Supreme Court also held that government-granted union monopoly bargaining power over public employees is “a significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts.”
In this case, Miller maintains that Washington’s policy breaches the First Amendment by forcing her to associate with union officials whose representation she doesn’t want and to which she didn’t consent. Miller’s argument also cites the High Court’s holding in the 2014 Harris v. Quinn case, which invalidated forced union fees for similar home-based care providers on the grounds that they are not full-fledged “public employees.” The petition argues that finding, in combination with the Supreme Court’s observation in Janus regarding forced association in “other contexts,” warrants Supreme Court review.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys successfully argued and briefed both the Janus and Harris cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. In both cases the Supreme Court applied a heightened level of “exacting” First Amendment scrutiny to the government-imposed forced dues, which is what Miller asks the Court to apply in her case challenging forced association with a union.
“Based on misreadings of not only Janus but also earlier Supreme Court precedent, courts across the country have looked the other way as union bosses and their allies in government have come up with increasingly outrageous schemes to force individuals under union monopolies against their will,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “If Katherine Miller, who runs a small business out of her own home, can be forced to associate with a union simply because she cares for children whose care is partially subsidized by the government, then there is no legal limit to who can be forced to accept a government-appointed ‘representative’ to speak to and lobby the government for them.”