California Homecare Providers File Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Union ‘Escape Period’ Scheme Used to Unlawfully Seize Dues
Union officials violate providers’ First Amendment and statutory rights by refusing to halt deductions of union dues from Medicaid payments
Sacramento, CA (July 15, 2019) – California homecare providers who receive Medicaid payments for serving disabled individuals have filed a class-action lawsuit with free legal aid from attorneys provided by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff and Washington-based Freedom Foundation. They charge union officials with violating their legal rights by unlawfully restricting them from stopping payment of union dues and fees, as is their right under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Harris and Janus decisions and the Medicaid statute.
The providers’ complaint says United Domestic Workers (UDW) AFSCME Local 3930 union officials coerced them into surrendering their legal rights by signing union membership cards that prohibit them from halting union dues and fees deductions except for a narrow “escape period” a few days every year.
When the providers attempted to exercise their legal rights under Harris and Janus to refrain from financially subsidizing a union and cut off any further dues or fee deductions, union officials refused to honor their requests. Despite the lack of valid consent by providers, the California State Controller, at the behest of AFSCME union officials, continues to deduct union dues from the Medicaid funds intended for providers.
In the class-action suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, the providers named as defendants UDW AFSCME Local 3930 and California State Controller Betty Yee. Yee deducts union dues and fees from providers’ Medicaid payments pursuant to state law.
The providers rely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Harris and Janus decisions in 2014 and 2018, respectively, both of which were argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys. Harris held that homecare providers cannot constitutionally be compelled to pay union dues or fees as a condition of receiving public funding. Janus established that the First Amendment protects public-sector workers from being forced to pay union dues or fees without their knowing and explicit consent.
While still permitting voluntary unionism, the Janus decision requires union officials to inform public workers of their First Amendment rights and obtain knowing waivers from them before collecting any dues or fees. This requirement invalidates the restrictions on revocation of deduction authorizations union officials enforce through membership cards signed by individuals subjected to public sector unionism.
Because union officials never obtained their consent with knowledge of their rights under Harris and Janus, the providers argue that the restrictions in their dues deduction authorizations are invalid and union officials, thus, are not legally authorized to deduct dues or fees from their hard-earned Medicaid payments. Their complaint asks that the court declare unconstitutional the California statute which authorizes such restrictions.
In addition, the providers’ suit alleges that the deduction of union dues from their Medicaid payments violates a provision of the federal Medicaid statute that prohibits the diversion of Medicaid monies to persons or institutions that are not providing services to disabled individuals.
“Once again union bosses have ignored the clear wishes of the workers they claim to ‘represent’ simply to line their pockets with compulsory dues,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Instead of informing workers of their First Amendment rights and allowing them to choose whether to pay dues to a union voluntarily, union officials nationwide are applying ‘escape periods’ and other coercive tactics to trap workers into paying forced dues against their wishes.”
Union officials to be held accountable for illegally forcing workers to sign misleading payroll deduction forms and intimidating workers seeking to oust union
Washington DC (July 12, 2019) Today the National Right to Work Foundation announced victories in three cases filed by Foundation staff attorneys for workers whose rights were violated by union officials who enforced mandatory dues checkoff authorizations that violate the workers’ rights and harassed workers who sought to oust the union. These cases were on appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel, who prosecutes violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
In separate cases, Kacy Warner, a hospital worker, and Shelby Krocker, a Kroger employee, were required to sign check-off authorization forms. After both workers filed charges with NLRB regional offices with free legal aid from the Foundation, NLRB regional directors dismissed their cases. Their Foundation attorneys then appealed to the NLRB General Counsel for both.
The General Counsel sustained the Foundation-filed appeals for Warner in this and an additional charge against the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) for illegally intimidating workers seeking to oust the union.
Warner was not a member of NNOC and circulated a petition to hold a decertification vote to remove the union from her workplace. NNOC officials tried to interfere with her decertification efforts. And, after she started the petition, union officials told her and a coworker they must sign a dues checkoff form without providing them an alternative method of payment, as the NLRA requires.
The General Counsel’s decision to sustain Warner’s appeal concerning the checkoff also added to the charges, saying the union violated the NLRA by “maintaining confusing and ambiguous dual-purpose authorization forms that unlawfully restrained employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.”
The General Counsel noted that the union’s forms failed to tell workers they can revoke authorization for deduction of union dues after the union’s contract expires, failed to give workers adequate time to revoke authorization, unlawfully required workers to use certified mail to send revocation requests, and failed to give “any indication to employees that payroll deduction authorization is voluntary.”
This came just a week after the General Counsel sustained another Foundation-led appeal for Krocker, who charged United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials with illegally forcing her to sign a dues checkoff authorization.
When she was hired, Krocker joined the union because she was told she must join and sign a dues checkoff authorization as a condition of her employment. When she later resigned union membership in 2018, the union accepted her resignation, but continued collecting dues and would not let her revoke her checkoff, claiming she missed a union-created “window” to do so. Because West Virginia is a Right to Work state, the decision to financially support a labor union is supposed to lie with each individual worker.
As he did for Warner’s appeal, the General Counsel added to the charges against union officials. The additional charges are for “failing to provide the Charging Party with the explicit dates upon which she was entitled to revoke her dues checkoff authorization when it rejected her revocation request as untimely,” not being clear with workers about membership and payroll deduction forms, not being clear that workers can revoke payroll deduction authorizations, and for “maintaining language that requires the employee to give Local 400 the authority to transfer an employee’s checkoff obligation to another employer, not limited to a successor employer.”
“The NLRB General Counsel’s rulings in these cases open the door for finally holding Big Labor accountable for the illegal language that is regularly slipped into union dues deduction cards and serves no purpose other than to restrict rank-and-file workers from exercising their legally protected rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The National Labor Relations Act purports to support workers’ right to refrain from supporting a union, and these dues deductions cards clearly violate that basic principle.”
Paramedic Levies Charges Against Teamsters, Medic One for Illegal Threats, Discipline and Dues Demands
Teamster union agents also charged with destroying employee’s postings about workers’ rights before union officials moved to have him fired
St. Louis, MO (July 12, 2019) – A St. Louis-area paramedic is mounting a federal unfair labor practice charge against the Teamsters Local 610 union for multiple violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The violations charged include blocking his right to resign from union membership and demanding punishment by his employer because he attempted to inform coworkers of their rights. He is also hitting his employer, Medic One Ambulance, with a federal charge for threatening to fire him at union officials’ behest after he posted literature concerning the right of workers to resign from unions.
Both charges were filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 14 office in St. Louis with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys.
According to Jarod Aubuchon’s charge against the Teamsters, he submitted a letter to union agents on April 8 ending his union membership and asserting his right under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court case to pay reduced union fees as a nonmember. Missouri’s lack of a Right to Work law means that employees who exercise their right to refrain from formal union membership must still pay a reduced share of dues or lose their jobs.
The charge against the union reports that since Aubuchon submitted his resignation neither his resignation nor his Beck rights have been acknowledged by Teamsters bosses. Moreover, full dues are still being seized from his paychecks.
Aubuchon’s charge against the union states that at some point after his resignation he began posting literature about employee rights in “common open areas.” Union agents reacted by destroying the postings and demanding disciplinary action against Aubuchon by Medic One. His charge against Medic One notes that the employer threatened to fire him during a meeting.
The NLRA prohibits unions from causing an employer to “discriminate against an employee” based on union nonmembership. Aubuchon’s charges assert that both Teamsters Local 610 and Medic One blatantly violated his rights under the NLRA.
Missouri legislators passed a Right to Work law in 2017, but Big Labor triggered a referendum in 2018 and killed the law with a multi-million-dollar campaign before the law went into effect. That leaves union officials free to have workers fired for nonpayment of union fees. However, union officials still must follow the Beck precedent to justify the amount of any mandatory fees.
“This case demonstrates the kind of abuse that happens when workers lack the protections of a Right to Work law,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Without Right to Work, employees who exercise their freedoms under longstanding labor laws are bullied, have illegal dues seized from them, lose their jobs, and are sometimes not even permitted to notify their fellow workers of their rights.”
ESPN Cameraman Hits CWA Union Officials with Federal Charges for Illegally Demanding Nearly $10,000 in Union Fees
NABET-CWA union bosses failed to provide legally mandated breakdown of fees, while demanding cameraman pay up or be fired
Portland, OR (July 10, 2019) – An Oregon-based ESPN employee has just filed an unfair labor practice charge against the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) union, asserting that union officials illegally threatened to terminate him unless he pays thousands of dollars in union fees. The charge was filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Jeremy Brown, a daily hire for ESPN, states in his charge that since April 1 he had declined membership in NABET and therefore could only be required to pay the part of union fees chargeable to nonmembers under federal law. Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, which would make union membership and financial support voluntary, private sector employees who fall under the monopoly bargaining power of a union must still pay a fee to union officials as a condition of employment.
Existing Supreme Court precedent provides some employee protections from compulsory union fees. The Foundation-won 1998 CWA v. Beck ruling requires unions to only charge employees who have refused formal union membership fees directly related to bargaining. Courts and the NLRB have also mandated that unions provide financial explanations to nonmembers of how the reduced amounts are calculated. Absent such a financial breakdown, union officials cannot legally demand any fees from nonmember employees.
According to Brown’s charge, those requirements were ignored by NABET union officials who demanded an initiation fee of $6,456 and an additional $3,429.60 in past dues from him in a letter, and threatened that he would be fired if he did not pay. The charge says that, despite Brown’s objection, NABET has not “provided him with a reduction of the fee to an amount that includes only lawfully chargeable costs or notice of the calculation of that amount.”
“Rather than respect workers’ legal rights, NABET-CWA union bosses are threating Jeremy Brown’s livelihood in their greedy rush to stuff their coffers with forced union dues,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case, like thousands of others, shows why every worker in America needs the protection of a Right to Work law guaranteeing that that all union membership and financial support is strictly voluntary and the choice of each individual.”
New York Stop & Shop Employee Hits UFCW with Federal Charges Following Repeated Attempts to Misinform Him About Rights
Employee one of numerous Northeastern United States workers whose rights have been infringed by food service industry union
New York, NY (July 10, 2019) – A former employee of the Stop & Shop supermarket branch in New Hyde Park, NY, has filed an unfair labor practice charge against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 464A union, reporting that officials falsely told him that he could only resign from union membership by quitting his job. That misinformation is a clear violation of employee rights under federal law. The charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The former employee, John Smith, reports in his charge that he became a member of the UFCW upon beginning work at Stop & Shop in November 2018 because his manager had told him that union membership is a condition of employment at the branch. Smith’s charge further relates that at the beginning of 2019 he began asking UFCW officials how to resign his union membership.
According to the charge, the first union agent whom Smith spoke with on this matter simply reiterated that the only way to end union membership was to resign his job, but Smith persisted and asked to be directed to the “union constitution.” The charge reports that he was then handed off to another union official who told him again that his employment hinged on his union membership.
Smith is asking the NLRB to issue a complaint against the union for the violations. Under longstanding NLRB precedent, union agents are required to inform employees of their right to refrain from union membership. Moreover, NLRB precedents applying the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in CWA v. Beck mandate that union agents apprise workers of their right to pay reduced union fees as a nonmember.
Other employees in the New York City area and around the country have obtained Foundation legal aid to mount similar charges against the UFCW in recent months. Beverley Pryce and Carolee Buckley, two employees at Plattdeutsche Home Society retirement home in Franklin Square, NY, filed unfair labor practice charges in May against UFCW Local 2013 because union agents failed to provide a legally-required financial breakdown of the reduced fees that they must pay as nonmembers. Foundation staff attorneys have also assisted other employees victimized by union officials in incidents related to the UFCW-ordered Stop & Shop strike which affected grocery workers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“Once again UFCW union bosses have been caught violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The increasing number of charges bring into sharp focus the campaign of coercion and misinformation that UFCW officials are perpetrating against rank-and-file workers.”
Massachusetts Educators Ask US Supreme Court to Review State Law Conditioning Workplace Rights on Funding Union Politics
State law lets unions block workers from a say in workplace matters unless they waive their First Amendment rights and fund union political activities
Washington, D.C. (July 8, 2019) – Today, staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are submitting a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the US Supreme Court to hear Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, in which four Massachusetts educators are challenging the application of the state’s monopoly bargaining law for its educational system.
The educators argue that the state law, which is manipulated by union bosses to block teachers who are not union members from voting or otherwise voicing their opinions in the determination of their own working conditions, results in depriving nonmember teachers of their First Amendment rights.
The four plaintiffs hail from the University of Massachusetts and the Hanover School Committee. All have rejected membership in the National Educators Association (NEA) and its local affiliates.
Although the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision guarantees that union fees and membership are strictly voluntary for all public sector workers, the policy in question unconstitutionally forces them to become full union members to be able to speak up about their work environment.
To have any say in their own work conditions, nonmembers like the four educators would have to waive their First Amendment rights under Janus and join the union, which means funding union political causes.
The lead plaintiff, Dr. Ben Branch, is a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a colleague of fellow plaintiff of Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner, who teaches chemistry there.
Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.
Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools system. The union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempted to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and pushed to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.
The petition comes after the Massachusetts Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in April.
“The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s refusal to apply the Janus ruling has left these educators facing a legally untenable situation: either they can avoid associating with a union with which they disagree and lose their voices in the workplace, or they can waive their Janus rights and have their money used for ideological causes they oppose,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The state of Massachusetts is forcing these educators to fund state legislators’ union political allies if they want even the most limited participation in the government-created bargaining process that controls their conditions of employment.”
“Such schemes are effectively a modern version of Tammany Hall that should be a thing of the past, and it’s time for courts to acknowledge it,” added Mix.
Foundation Hails NLRB Ruling: ‘An Important Step Forward in Removing the Barriers that let Union Bosses Trap Workers in Union Ranks’
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys represented Johnson Control employees seeking to remove UAW union from their workplace
Washington, D.C. – In a victory for the rights of independent-minded workers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision on July 3 that limits union officials ability to game the NLRB system to trap workers in monopoly union ranks following an employee petition to their employer demonstrating that a majority of the workers oppose unionization.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys represented two workers (Brenda Lynch and Anna Marie Grant) who spearheaded the collection of signatures from a majority of workers opposed to union representation. After UAW officials sought to foist the union back onto the workers despite their clear opposition, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys successfully intervened in the case on behalf of Lynch and Grant.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement about the decision:
“This decision is an important step forward in removing the barriers that let union bosses trap workers in union ranks even when a majority of the workers want out. Instead of union lawyers playing legal games for months or even years to block the removal of a union that lacks majority support, the Board majority takes the common sense position that the easiest way to settle representational disputes is by letting union officials prove their claim of support in a secret ballot vote of the workers.
“As long as union bosses are given the extraordinary power to force every worker in a workplace under their monopoly representation, including those completely opposed to the union, the burden should be with union officials to prove that workers actually want such representation. We urge the NLRB to follow up on this victory by removing the other unnecessary bars, blocks and barriers that workers face when trying to exercise their right to remove a union that lacks majority support.”
Final Briefs Filed at Appeals Court in Janus v. AFSCME: Case Seeks Refund of Unconstitutionally Seized Forced Union Fees
Seventh Circuit likely to be the first appellate court to rule whether nonmembers can recover dues seized in violation of First Amendment
Washington, D.C. (July 3, 2019) – Today attorneys representing Mark Janus have filed the final brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the continuation of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. At issue is whether union officials are entitled to keep money they seized from nonmembers in violation of their constitutional rights. Last June, the US Supreme Court issued the landmark ruling in the case, finding that it is a violation of the First Amendment to mandate that government workers fund union activities.
Mark Janus was an Illinois child support specialist who filed his case with free legal aid from the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The case was successfully argued at the U.S. Supreme Court by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.
The Supreme Court’s June 27, 2018, decision in Janus’ favor found that any union fees taken from workers like Mark Janus – who was not a member of AFSCME – without the worker’s affirmative and knowing consent violate the First Amendment. Justice Samuel Alito ruled in the majority opinion that compulsory fees “[violate] the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
Janus will be the first case in which a circuit court will evaluate the so-called “good faith” defense that union lawyers have asserted in response to worker petitions for refunds, arguing that union officials should be allowed to keep funds seized prior to the Janus decision. This contention has generally succeeded in lower courts despite the Supreme Court never suggesting that Janus only requires prospective relief for affected workers. The High Court further noted 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.
Mark Janus is asking the Court of Appeals to rule that he is entitled to refunds of approximately $3,000 in fees he was forced to pay since March 23, 2013 (as the statute of limitations permits). However, the case has significant implications for dozens of other cases being litigated around the country for hundreds of thousands of other workers seeking the return of forced fees seized unlawfully by union officials. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating sixteen cases that collectively seek over $120 million in refunds.
“The Janus case is a milestone of worker freedom, but rather than accept that the funding of government unions must be completely voluntary union bosses continue to block workers from exercising their rights and to deny workers refunds for the constitutional violations union officials committed,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope the Seventh Circuit will follow the clear logic of the Supreme Court’s decision issued a year ago and establish that union bosses cannot profit from violating the First Amendment rights of workers.”
“Government workers are finally free from forced union fees after the Janus decision, but government unions’ coffers are full from the years of unconstitutional financial support taken from workers,” added Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “Mark Janus’ fight on behalf of government workers isn’t over. Mark and hundreds of thousands of former agency fee payers are entitled to full relief from the government unions’ wrongdoing.”
Second CRH Companies Worker Illegally Fired for Refusing Union Membership Hits Teamsters and Company with Federal Charges
Federal Unfair Labor Practice charge filed after Teamsters agent misinformed worker of his rights prior to termination
Minneapolis, MN (July 1, 2019) – Another employee at CRH Companies Midwest Region’s Belle Plaine, MN facility has levied unfair labor practice charges against both the Teamsters Local 120 union and the company for firing him illegally upon his rejection of full union membership. The worker filed the charges with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
According to Charles Winter’s charge, a Teamsters representative told employees during a March 28 meeting that membership is required in order to get or keep a job.
The charge also notes that the union membership form that Teamsters officials gave Winter was missing a legally-required estimate of the agency fees that union nonmembers would be required to pay. Because Minnesota does not have a Right to Work law, nonmember workers can be forced to pay some union fees as a condition of employment.
Winter’s charge against the Teamsters maintains that union agents clearly violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which explicitly forbids any union agent from “restrain[ing] or coerc[ing]” employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights, one of which is the right to refrain from union membership.
Additionally, Winter charges the union with ignoring his rights under the Beck v. CWA Supreme Court decision, which requires unions to provide employees who object to full membership a breakdown of the reduced union fees they will be required to pay.
Regardless, CRH Companies swiftly carried out the discipline promised by Teamsters union agents. Winter’s charge against the company states that a company representative informed him that union membership was compulsory. When Winter sent a reply reiterating his desire not to be a union member, the company representative sent him an email terminating his employment.
Both charges ask the NLRB to seek “Section 10(j)” injunctions against the company and union to reinstate Winter while the charges are adjudicated.
Winter joins James Connolly, another employee in the same CRH Companies facility, in filing unfair labor practice charges against CRH and the Teamsters for illegal termination. Connolly was fired 10 days before Winter was for similarly refusing full membership in the Teamsters. Both employees sought legal help from Foundation attorneys in filing their charges.
“What the illegal firings of James Connolly and Charles Winter demonstrate all too clearly is the contempt Teamsters bosses have for even the most longstanding federal protections for workers,” explained National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “Minnesota legislators should take note of these abuses of union boss power and adopt a Right to Work law to ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary in The Gopher State.”
All articles from the May/June 2019 issue of Foundation Action are now on the website.
In this issue:
- Foundation Victory: Workers Cannot Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying
- Hospital Employees Fight Forced Unionization by Bureaucrat Fiat
- Flight Attendant’s Lawsuit Against Southwest and Union for Illegal Firing Will Continue
- Union Faces Federal Prosecution for Failure to Disclose Forced-Fees Amount
- Michigan Workers Halt Union Bosses’ Tactics to Undermine Right to Work
To view other editions or sign up for a free copy of the newsletter via mail, click here.