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.”
Ohio School Bus Driver Wins Settlement Against OAPSE Union Bosses Securing Refund of Dues Seized in Violation of Janus First Amendment Rights
OAPSE officials back down when faced with bus driver’s federal lawsuit challenging union’s “escape period” policy as violation of Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision
Cincinnati, OH (November 12, 2019) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Ripley Union Lewis Huntington School District bus driver Donna Fizer has just won a settlement requiring Ohio Association of Public School Employees/AFSCME Local 4 (OAPSE) union bosses to refund to her dues they seized from her paycheck in violation of her First Amendment rights.
Fizer’s victory comes after she hit OAPSE officials with a federal lawsuit contending that dues seizures they had made from her paycheck after she resigned her union membership infringed her rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. Janus, which the High Court issued in June 2018, mandates that no public employee can be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment, and that union fees can only be collected from a public employee with an “affirmative and knowing” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.
Fizer notified school board officials in September 2018 that she was “immediately withdrawing [her union] membership” and exercising her First Amendment Janus right to cut off union dues deductions. The school district treasurer quickly complied and stopped the deductions from her paycheck, but OAPSE bosses responded by filing a grievance which alleged that Fizer could not revoke except within a tiny, union-created “escape period” that occurs only 10 days every few years. OAPSE officials demanded in the grievance that the district “make OAPSE whole for all lost dues” and continue to take dues from her wages.
Though the district initially rebuffed the union’s request and responded that “the district will honor the Supreme Court ‘Janus Decision,’” later arbitration proceedings forced by OAPSE upheld the enforcement of the narrow “escape period.” The arbitrator ordered the district to continue seizing dues from Fizer’s paycheck and to seize an additional sum to “make OAPSE whole” for the time period in which the district honored Fizer’s Janus request and stopped deductions.
Fizer fought back by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. The complaint argued that OAPSE’s “escape period” imposed an illegal hindrance on public employees’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus.
Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys and the Janus precedent in federal court, union officials settled the case. OAPSE bosses have returned to Fizer all the dues they took from her paycheck since the date of her membership revocation, and have notified the district to “cease any further deduction of union dues from her paycheck.”
Foundation staff attorneys have been at the forefront of the fight to defend public employees’ rights under Janus, currently litigating over two dozen cases around the country to enforce the landmark decision. Most recently, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for New Mexico information technology worker David McCutcheon and his coworkers, who collectively received over $15,000 in refunds of dues seized by Communications Workers of America (CWA) bosses in violation of their Janus rights.
“Ms. Fizer’s win should serve as another reminder that public sector union bosses cannot legally limit public employees’ First Amendment rights through ‘escape periods’ and other similar schemes,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation will continue to offer free legal aid so workers can bring more lawsuits to ensure that public employees’ Janus rights are fully enforced.”
Labor Board to Prosecute NNOC Union for Violating Texas Nurse’s Rights, Union Forced to Settle Other Charge for Ripping Down Nurse’s Posters
National Labor Relations Board complaint says union officials are illegally refusing to turn over to worker a secret agreement between the employer and union bosses
Fort Worth, TX (November 7, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have won a settlement against the National Nurses Organizing Committee/Texas-National Nurses United union for Esther Marissa Zamora, a nurse at a hospital who was trying to educate her co-workers about unions, only to have her informational material seized by union officials. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) also issued a complaint against the union for refusing to give Zamora a copy of a “neutrality agreement” entered into by union officials and her employer.
Zamora works for Corpus Christi Medical Center-HCA in Corpus Christi, Texas, where unions hold monopoly bargaining power over the nurses. According to Zamora’s charge, she was informing her co-workers about the effects of unionization, only to have union officials rip down or confiscate her educational materials.
Faced with Zamora’s evidence, union officials agreed to settle that part of the case and now must post workplace notices that inform all workers about their rights to not join unions. The notices, which the union is required to post for 60 days, also tell workers that the NNOC/Texas-NNU will not “restrain or coerce you in the exercise of the above rights” and “will not confiscate or remove any employee’s flyers related to the union and/or union decertification efforts.”
On October 30, NLRB Region 16 in Fort Worth also issued a formal complaint against the union for refusing to turn over to Zamora a so-called “neutrality agreement” created in secret between the hospital chain where she works and the NNOC/NNU union officials. As an employee, Zamora is entitled to any agreements that the NNOC/NNU union makes with her employer.
So-called neutrality agreements often include special protections for union bosses that allow them access to workers on site and prevent the employer from voicing any opposition to unionization attempts. Some such agreements include promises by union officials to limit contract demands, in some cases even agreeing to wage or benefit limitations in exchange for company assistance in organizing workers.
In this case, Zamora argues that she is entitled to the secret agreement between her employer and NNOC/NNU because it controls her and other employee’s terms and conditions of employment by limiting how the hospital can deal with the union. Zamora’s unfair labor practice charge alleged that union officials accepted “unlawful support and assistance from the employer.”
As part of the NLRB’s complaint about the neutrality agreement, the Regional Office set a hearing date for January 27, 2020 before an NLRB administrative law judge.
“It is telling that union bosses are determined to keep rank-and-file nurses in the dark about the terms of the backroom deal the union struck with hospital officials in exchange for company assistance in organizing these nurses,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “So-called ‘neutrality agreements’ often sell-out workers to advance the interests of greedy union bosses, which is probably why the union refuses to disclose it to a nurse whom they know is educating her co-workers about the effects of unionization in her workplace.”
St. Louis Paramedic Appeals to National Labor Relations Board General Counsel in Case Charging Teamsters Officials with Illegal Retaliation
Regional NLRB officials dismissed charge against union even after NLRB General Counsel overturned dismissal in similar union intimidation case just months ago
St. Louis, MO (November 6, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, St. Louis-area paramedic Jarod Aubuchon is appealing his case against Teamsters Local 610 union bosses to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC. Aubuchon’s appeal follows his case’s partial dismissal by NLRB Region 14 officials, who recently dismissed a similar union intimidation case brought by Foundation staff attorneys only to have that decision overturned by the NLRB General Counsel on appeal.
Aubuchon, who is not a member of the Teamsters, posted flyers in common areas of his workplace to inform coworkers of their rights to resign union membership and pay only the portion of union fees directly related to bargaining under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Because Missouri lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees can still be fired for not paying some union fees.
Aubuchon’s charge recounts that union agents tore down his postings and demanded that the employer, Medic One, discipline him for informing his coworkers of their Beck rights. Shortly afterward, he was brought into a management office and told to stop posting the rights notices. Actions by union officials that cause an employer to discriminate against workers on such grounds are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The NLRB General Counsel will now review Aubuchon’s case against the union. This July, the General Counsel reversed Region 14 officials’ dismissal of a similar case brought by Foundation staff attorneys for Kansas City-area hospital worker Kacy Warner.
Warner charged officials of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) union with illegally interfering with a petition she was circulating for a vote to remove the union, including tearing down flyers she had hung in bathrooms and other common areas in her workplace informing employees of the petition. Despite an order from the NLRB General Counsel’s office over three months ago reversing Region 14’s dismissal and demanding that region officials prosecute NNOC for even more rights violations than Warner had mentioned in her original charge, Region 14 has not yet taken action in that case.
The Regional Director was also overturned by the full NLRB in Washington earlier this month for wrongfully dismissing a decertification petition submitted by Illinois-based Pinnacle Foods worker Robert Gentry. After United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials agreed to a settlement with Pinnacle Foods which was unrelated to Gentry’s petition, Region 14 dismissed Gentry’s petition at the behest of union bosses as part of approving the settlement. Following the Board’s reversal, Region 14 has finally scheduled the long-awaited decertification vote to take place on November 15.
“The NLRB is charged with enforcing workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, yet there is a disturbing pattern of Region 14 failing to enforce the rights of rank-and-file workers when doing so advances the interests of union bosses,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It should not take an appeal to Washington, DC, for workers to have their rights fully protected against union boss abuses.”
Operating Engineers Union Hit with Charge for Illegally Demanding Forced Union Fees from Worker in Violation of Supreme Court’s Janus Decision
More than a year after court recognized First Amendment protects state workers from mandatory union payments, IOUE union officials claim forced fees are legal in California
Sacramento, CA (October 31, 2019) – A Sacramento County employee has filed an unfair labor practice charge with California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Stationary Engineers Local 39. His charge, filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, states that union bosses demanded fees from him in violation of California labor law because they violated his First Amendment rights.
The employee, Ethan Morris, works at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and is not a member of IUOE Stationary Engineers. According to his charge, in July 2019 he received a notice from an IUOE financial secretary which claimed that “employees who do not join the Union must pay a…fee” to the union as a condition of employment, and that such mandatory fees are “legal and enforceable in California” via direct deductions from nonmember employees’ paychecks.
Morris’ charge argues that the union’s fee demands are a clear violation of his First Amendment rights under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, a majority of the Court recognized that union dues or fees cannot be mandatory for public employees and may only be deducted from government workers’ paychecks if they have given “affirmative and knowing” waivers of their First Amendment right not to subsidize a union.
Morris’s charge maintains that IUOE Stationary Engineers bosses thus breached his rights under California’s Milias-Meyers-Brown Act (MMBA). That statute provides Golden State workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and prohibits unions from “coerc[ing] or discriminat[ing] against” employees for exercising that right. Morris demands that union officials rectify the situation by stopping the illegal fee demands and posting a PERB-approved notice informing his coworkers of their right to refrain from union activities and acknowledging that compulsory fee demands violate that right.
Across the country, Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases to defend public employees’ First Amendment rights under Janus, which was successfully argued at the US Supreme Court by Foundation staff attorney William Messenger. In addition, Foundation staff attorneys have already won several cases enforcing Janus, including one for Ventura County Community College District math professor Michael McCain after American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union officials illegally attempted to restrict the time period in which he and his colleagues could exercise their Janus rights and cut off dues payments. In July, McCain won a settlement requiring AFT union bosses to stop blocking workers from exercising those rights and to provide refunds to workers who had dues seized because of the illegal policy.
“Union bosses have been caught red-handed lying to workers about their Janus rights in this case because Ethan Morris learned his legal rights before signing them away in the face of their illegal demands. Yet, for every worker who rebuffs illegal union threats there are almost certainly thousands of workers who unknowingly sign away their rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows why states must proactively protect their workers’ First Amendment rights and ensure that every worker fully understands their Janus rights and must not deduct any union dues or fees unless a worker knowingly and voluntarily waives those rights.”
Teamsters Officials Misled Pepsi Employee About His Rights, Attempted to Have Him Fired for Asking About Leaving Union
Albany-area worker filed unfair labor practice charge against Teamsters at National Labor Relations Board with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation
Latham, NY (October 30, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an unfair labor practice charge on behalf of an employee of a Pepsi plant, against a local Teamsters union after union officials wrongly told him he would have to join the union as a condition of employment, tried to get him fired and would not allow him to exercise his legal right to resign from the union.
Vince Zasonski works for a Pepsi-Cola production plant in Lathan, New York where Teamsters Local 294 have a bargaining agreement which includes a union security clause, making union payments mandatory. In the summer of 2018, Zasonski, who did not voluntarily join the union, wanted to leave union membership, but a union official told him that because New York is not a Right to Work state, he would have to stay in the union.
In that statement, which came after Zasonski inquired about resigning from the union, the union fundamentally misstated workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act and longstanding legal precedents. While New York workers lack Right to Work protections that make all union payments strictly voluntary, Empire State workers still have the right to resign their formal membership and pay only the portion of union dues allowed under the Supreme Court’s Communications Workers of America v. Beck decision, which said unions cannot force workers to pay for activities unrelated to bargaining such as union political and lobbying activities.
The official then tried to get Zasonski fired for seeking to resign his union membership. In August of 2019, Zasonski wrote to union officials to resign his union membership and assert his Beck rights.
Union officials, however, still have not responded to his letter or recognized his legal rights. The unfair labor practice charge Zasonski filed with the free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys states that union officials never explained that he could resign from the union or that he could assert his Beck rights, nor did they provide him with a breakdown of fees according to the Beck standard or reduce Zasonski’s dues as he asked.
The union continues to unlawfully take a cut of Zasonski’s paycheck as if he were a full member of the union despite his attempts to resign membership and exercise his rights not to pay dues that support union political activities in violation of his rights.
“Lying to employees about their right to resign from union membership and their ability to stop paying full dues shows what lengths greedy union bosses will go to pad union coffers, even if it means violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows why every worker in America needs the protection of a Right to Work law that makes union membership and financial support strictly voluntary.”
Pinnacle Foods Employee Wins National Labor Relations Board Decision Affirming Right to Remove UFCW Union Opposed by Workers
NLRB: Settlement deal between employer and union officials cannot nullify workers’ legal right to hold a decertification election to remove union
Washington, DC (October 23, 2019) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an Illinois-based employee of Pinnacle Foods Group LLC (a Conagra Brands subsidiary), Robert Gentry, has just won a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which affirms the right of workers to hold a vote to remove an unpopular union from their workplaces. The decision comes after union officials and Pinnacle Foods signed off on a settlement which the union and NLRB Regional Director claimed blocked Gentry and his coworkers from exercising their right to hold a union decertification election.
Gentry first submitted a petition for a decertification vote in August 2018. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 union officials immediately attempted to block the election by filing unfair labor practice charges against Pinnacle Foods. Despite UFCW officials’ allegations being unrelated to Gentry’s petition to remove the union, the NLRB Region 14 Director approved a settlement between UFCW officials and Pinnacle Foods which purportedly created a seven-month “bar” on decertification elections, on top of a previous one-year “bar.”
Although not mandated or even mentioned by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), prior NLRB actions have created the so-called “settlement bar” doctrine, which blocks workers for a period of time from exercising their statutory right to hold a vote to remove a union.
With legal representation by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Gentry submitted a request for review to the NLRB in Washington, DC, demanding that the Board reverse the dismissal by the Region 14 Director and allow the decertification vote to proceed. The request argued that the Regional Director was wrong to use the settlement – to which Gentry was never party – to approve a block on the decertification election. “[T]he Regional Director cannot seriously contend that the petition should be dismissed…for the simple fact that…it is Mr. Gentry’s and the employees’ petition” and not that of the union or employer, the request reads.
The request further pointed out that the settlement agreement being used to block the workers right to a decertification vote contained a “non-admission” clause which plainly stated that the settlement “[did] not…constitute an admission, finding, or adjudication” that Pinnacle Foods had violated the NLRA. It also said that such a “mere presumption” of employer wrongdoing “is not…sufficient to thwart a decertification election.”
The decision from the NLRB in Washington, DC, now orders the Region 14 Director to process Gentry’s request for a decertification vote. The three-member majority agreed with the reasoning in Gentry’s request for review, ruling that “[b]ecause [Gentry] did not consent to the settlement agreement, we find that the settlement agreement can neither waive [his] right to have his decertification petition processed nor delay” a decertification election.
Foundation staff attorneys have long urged the NLRB to eliminate such “bar” doctrines that are not mandated by the statute enacted by Congress, which block workers from holding decertification votes authorized by the NLRA. Though agency officials announced last year that they would work in rulemaking to address some of these barriers to workers holding decertification votes, Foundation Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse wrote a letter last year encouraging the agency to go further and eliminate all “bars” which run contrary to the NLRA by trapping workers in union boss ranks where even large majorities oppose the union.
“Although it’s good news that Robert Gentry and his coworkers will belatedly be given the opportunity to exercise their right to remove a union they oppose, this case shows how the so-called ‘settlement bar’ and other ‘bars’ are manipulated by union bosses to trample workers’ statutory rights under federal labor law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union bosses should not be able to trap workers in union ranks on the basis of a settlement to which the workers were not party and to which they had no say.”
“It’s long past time the NLRB put employee free choice back at the center of American labor law and eliminated the numerous ‘bars’ and doctrines that block workers from exercising their right to removing union officials they oppose,” added Mix.