Over a Dozen Michigan Public School Employees Freed by Victory in Case Challenging Illegal Teacher Union Dues Scheme
Original plaintiffs fought for First Amendment Janus rights with National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, now they and eleven others are vindicated
Lansing, MI (September 12, 2019) – As a result of a settlement won earlier this year by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, thirteen Michigan public school employees have been freed from Michigan Education Association (MEA) union boss demands for illegal dues.
In the case which led to the settlement, MEA officials spent several years trying to exact illegal dues from two employees of the Port Huron Area School District, Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams. Gervais and Williams exercised their right to resign union membership in September 2013, approximately nine months after Michigan enacted Right to Work legislation that protects workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.
Despite the employees’ resignations and the statute, MEA officials continued to demand that Gervais and Williams pay dues for a period after their resignations, alleging that they had missed a short “escape period” to cut off union dues deductions. MEA continued to demand payments even though a 2014 decision brought by Foundation staff attorneys at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) declared the union officials’ “escape period” scheme illegal under Michigan’s Right to Work law.
Gervais and Williams later sued MEA in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. In that lawsuit, Gervais and Williams argued that the MEA’s requests additionally violated the precedent in the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. The Janus decision, which was argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2018, held that forcing public employees to pay fees to any union as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment.
The two Michigan plaintiffs sought an end to the union’s demands for themselves and any other workers who faced similar demands, along with refunds for all workers who paid dues MEA agents illegally demanded.
Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys and the Janus decision in court, MEA officials settled the case. MEA officials ended their demands to Gervais and Williams for illegal dues, and letters sent from MEA offices to Foundation staff attorneys now indicate that “report[s]… of nonpayment of dues” have been “expunged” for eleven other Michigan public school employees to date.
“Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams stood up for their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law and the Janus decision, and now they have not only won, but have secured protection for several of their colleagues around The Wolverine State from these illegal dues demands,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “But the fight is far from over. The Foundation will proudly stand with American workers until none are compelled into union membership or paying union fees in order to work.”
School Bus Driver Hits AFSCME Union with Federal Lawsuit for Seizing Dues in Violation of Her First Amendment Rights
Complaint: OAPSE union bosses fought for “escape period” blocking driver’s right to rescind union dues deductions
Cincinnati, OH (September 10, 2019) – A school bus driver for the Ripley Union Lewis Huntington School District has filed a federal lawsuit against the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) after union officials ordered the school district to seize union dues from her paycheck in violation of her First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
According to Donna Fizer’s complaint, in September 2018 she notified school board officials that she was “immediately withdrawing [her union] membership” and exercising her rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision to cut off union dues deductions. 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.
The school district treasurer, following Janus, ceased deductions from Fizer’s paycheck shortly after receiving her request. However, OAPSE union bosses quickly countered by filing a grievance which alleged that Fizer did not submit her revocation within a tiny, union-created “escape period” that occurs only 10 days every few years. OAPSE officials demanded in the grievance that the school district continue to seize fees from Fizer as well as “make OAPSE whole for all lost dues.”
Though the district initially rebuffed the union’s request and responded that “the district will honor the Supreme Court ‘Janus Decision,’” later arbitration proceedings between the district and OAPSE came down in favor of the union and upheld enforcement of the narrow “escape period.”
Now, Foundation staff attorneys representing Fizer are taking the battle to federal court, where they argue that “escape periods” impose an illegal hindrance on public employees’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus.
“Contrary to the wishes of union bosses, their concocted ‘escape period’ schemes cannot limit public employees’ First Amendment rights to just a few days every few years,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “OAPSE union officials are ignoring the Janus decision so they can greedily continue siphoning off Fizer’s hard-earned money.”
“The Foundation is proud to stand with Donna Fizer and countless other public employees in dozens of cases all across the country who are fighting to force union bosses to respect their First Amendment Janus rights,” added Mix.
Labor Board Rules UAW Violated Ford Worker’s Legal Rights by Unlawfully Accepting Union Dues Deducted from Paycheck
NLRB orders union officials to reimburse funds seized after employee resigned his union membership and revoked authorization to deduct any further dues
Washington, D.C. (September 4, 2019) – Ford Motor Company employee Lloyd Stoner won an important legal victory at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free litigation aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys after union officials violated his legal rights.
An NLRB three-member panel unanimously affirmed a ruling by an administrative law judge that United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 600 union officials violated Stoner’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRB ordered the Dearborn, Michigan-based union local officials to reimburse Stoner for union dues unlawfully deducted from his paycheck after he attempt to exercise his legal right to revoke his dues checkoff authorization.
Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas ruled in February that UAW Local 600 engaged in unfair labor practices under the NLRA by accepting union dues deducted from Stoner’s wages for two-and-a-half months after he resigned union membership and revoked his authorization to deduct dues. The union also failed to refund any of the dues taken without Stoner’s consent for nearly five months after his revocation.
Stoner had already won a favorable settlement in January from the Ford Motor Company, which was charged for deducting the unauthorized dues from his paycheck.
In addition to refunding dues unlawfully deducted from Stoner’s paycheck, the NLRB ordered union officials to honor any requests of employees to resign from membership and revoke their dues checkoff authorizations. UAW union officials must refrain from coercing workers from exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Board added.
“By standing up for his rights, Lloyd Stoner has won a clear victory for himself and his colleagues against abusive union practices,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Board is absolutely right that union bosses cannot keep accepting money deducted from a worker’s paycheck even after an employee resigns his union membership and tells the union he no longer wishes to pay dues.”
“It is outrageous that union officials thought they could get away with an obvious violation of the National Labor Relations Act,” Mix added. “Scandal ridden UAW bosses may claim to represent rank-and-file workers, but their actions repeatedly show they are really just out for power and money.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for California Workers Impacted by Possible UFCW Union Boss Strike
Foundation staff attorneys recently assisted workers whose rights were violated by UFCW officials during high profile Stop & Shop Strike
Washington DC (September 5, 2019) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation issued a special legal notice for workers affected by a potential strike at several grocery chains in central and southern California called for by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials.
According to news reports, the UFCW threatens to strike against Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs grocery stores, impacting over 45,000 employees. The special legal notice informs these affected workers of the rights union officials won’t tell them, including that they have the right to continue to work to support their families despite the union boss-ordered strike.
“The situation raises serious concerns for employees at potentially affected stores who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the legal notice reads. “Which is why workers frequently contact the Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other vicious union discipline for continuing to report to work to support themselves and their families.”
The National Right to Work Foundation’s special legal notice informs workers of their right to continue to work at their job during union-demanded strikes. It also highlights workers’ rights to resign union membership and their rights to revoke their union dues check-offs which take money from their paychecks. The notice also provides helpful information for removing an unaccountable union from a workplace, including how to use a decertification petition to obtain a secret ballot election to do so.
Importantly, the notice gives workers who want to exercise their right to work information on how to avoid fines and punishment from union officials. The National Right to Work Foundation is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse.
The full notice can be found at https://www.nrtw.org/ufcw-ca/
Foundation staff attorneys assisted several grocery workers during and after a recent UFCW-initiated strike in New England against the Stop & Shop grocery chain. Two workers have already filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the union for illegal conduct by UFCW union officials.
“Workers always have the right to continue to work during a strike, despite what union bosses may tell them or try to pressure them into,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “This legal notice reflects the Foundation’s decades-long commitment to offering free legal aid to workers to protect themselves from union bosses’ coercive tactics which regularly go hand-in-hand with union strike demands.”
“America must do more to protect the dignity of every American worker against the injustices of compulsory unionism.”
Washington, DC (Aug 29, 2019) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of Labor Day 2019:
On this Labor Day, many American workers are enjoying a well-deserved extra day of rest and relaxation with their families. And while we should celebrate all they do for this nation, we must also recognize that even as we make advances, America must do more to protect the dignity of every American worker against the injustices of compulsory unionism.
When it comes to freedom versus compulsion in the workplace, Samuel Gompers, founder of the AFL-CIO union, said it best: “I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty – the principles of voluntarism. No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.” And where Gompers’ advice has been followed and voluntarism reinforced, workers and economic opportunity have flourished.
The United States Supreme Court’s decision last year in Janus v. AFSCME, won and argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, secured the First Amendment rights of millions of public sector workers to choose individually whether or not union bosses deserve their financial support. Similarly, state Right to Work laws in place in 27 states protect millions of private sector workers from being fired simply for refusing to pay tribute to union officials.
Yet every day, millions of Americans are still forced to subsidize union boss activities or else lose their job. Meanwhile millions more are forced to accept forced union representation even when they oppose such representation and believe they would be better off without it.
Now, as the 2020 election looms, the American people are presented with two starkly different visions for the freedoms of America’s workers. The National Right to Work Act, currently pending in Congress would build on the Janus decision and state Right to Work laws by expanding workers’ freedom to decide the whether or not to join and financially support a labor union.
Meanwhile, Big Labor is wielding a multi-billion dollar forced dues-funded political war chest to expand union coercion over rank-and-file workers. Their top priority, the so-called ‘PRO Act,’ would expand union boss power to force workers into their ranks and also wipe out every state Right to Work law to give union officials the power to have millions of additional workers fired for not paying union dues or fees.
While that expanded regime of workplace compulsion may appeal to union bosses and the politicians whose campaigns are backed by Big Labor’s political machine, fortunately it is completely out of step with rank-and-file workers and the American people who overwhelmingly back the Right to Work principle that union membership and financial support should be strictly voluntary.
So this Labor Day, we should take Gompers’ words to heart and be on guard for attempts to undermine workers’ individual freedoms. And we should honor American workers by trusting each one to decide for him or herself whether or not to affiliate with a labor union.
Ohio Public Employees File Lawsuit Against AFSCME Union, State of Ohio Challenging Unconstitutional Restrictions on Stopping Union Dues
Class action lawsuit names Governor DeWine for state’s role in enforcing opt-out requirement that violates U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME precedent
Columbus, OH (August 27, 2019) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have just filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, challenging the State of Ohio’s enforcement of illegal restrictions created by AFSCME Council 11 union officials to limit state employees’ First Amendment rights to stop union dues payments. The lawsuit is being filed for five state employees who are receiving free legal aid from the Foundation.
The complaint seeks to ensure that Ohio state workers can freely exercise their constitutional rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, which struck down mandatory union fees as a violation of the First Amendment rights of government employees. The Supreme Court recognized that any dues taken without a government worker’s affirmative consent violate the First Amendment, and further made it clear that these rights cannot be restricted absent a clear and knowing waiver of them.
The lawsuit challenges union-created restrictions which block workers from exercising their rights under Janus outside of a brief “escape period” once every three years at the expiration of the union monopoly bargaining contract. AFSCME Council 11 is enforcing such First Amendment restrictions against tens of thousands of state workers.
The lawsuit seeks to end those restrictions and ensure that state workers only have union dues deducted from their paychecks if they have affirmatively opted-in to such payments. Because the state is seizing the dues from workers’ paychecks and enforcing the restriction, Governor DeWine and another state official are named as defendants in the complaint.
“Over a year ago the US Supreme Court ruled that public employees’ financial support of union activities must be completely voluntary, but the state of Ohio continues to enforce illegal union policies that violate the clear standards laid out in the Janus decision,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost should move quickly to stop this widespread violation of the First Amendment rights of Ohio public sector workers and cease collecting union dues from any worker who has not affirmatively consented to pay dues.”
The Ohio government employees’ lead Foundation staff attorney is William Messenger, who argued the Janus v. AFSCME case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating dozens of cases to enforce the Janus decision for workers from coast-to-coast.
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Michigan Construction Workers Impacted by Operating Engineers Union Boss Strike
Recent cases brought by Foundation staff attorneys demonstrate union officials frequently mislead workers about their rights during a strike
Detroit, MI (Aug 1, 2019) – Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have provided a legal notice to Michigan-based employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company in the wake of Operating Engineers Local 324 union boss strike demands.
News reports indicate that the strike order affects hundreds of employees who are operating heavy machinery as part of Michigan state projects to repair the state’s highways. The special legal notice informs these affected workers of the rights union officials won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to keep working and support their families despite the union boss-ordered strike.
“The situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the legal notice reads. “Which is why workers frequently contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other vicious union discipline for continuing to work during a strike to support themselves and their families.”
The Foundation’s legal notice informs Rieth-Riley employees of their rights to resign union membership and continue to work during the union-determined strike, complete with example resignation letters. It also notes that workers have the right to revoke their union dues “check-offs,” which authorize their employer to deduct union dues directly from their paychecks. Finally, the notice provides a link to information on how to oust an unwanted union from the workplace, including the process for initiating a National Labor Relations Board-approved decertification vote.
The full notice can be found at www.nrtw.org/rieth-riley/.
The National Right to Work Foundation is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse. In California earlier this year, the Foundation represented three Sacramento-based mosquito abatement employees who sued Operating Engineers Local 3 for illegally intimidating them simply because they had sought information on their right to decertify a union. The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruled in favor of the workers in May.
The Foundation also aided employees in the aftermath of the high-profile New England Stop & Shop strike which was ordered by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses in April. Foundation staff attorneys filed federal charges against the UFCW for two workers who received threats of illegal retaliation after continuing to work during the strike, and provided many more with information on their rights.
“As demonstrated in California earlier this year, Operating Engineers bosses will stop at nothing to ensure workers don’t discover their rights, and that effort will only intensify during this strike,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation, since its founding in 1968, has been committed to offering free legal aid to workers to protect themselves from union bosses’ coercive tactics which regularly go hand-in-hand with union strike demands.”
National Right to Work Foundation: Federal Agencies Must Stop Deducting Union Dues in Violation of First Amendment Janus Rights
Comments to Federal Labor Relations Authority point out that no union dues can be seized unless a federal employee provides a knowing waiver of their First Amendment rights
Washington, DC (Aug 12, 2019) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed comments with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) regarding the need for the federal government to fully protect the First Amendment rights of its employees as recognized in the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.
The submission comes after the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asked the FLRA to solicit public comments on how to proceed with union dues deductions in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.
In Janus, the High Court held that requiring public employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights “by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” Justice Samuel Alito further ruled for the majority that no union dues or fees could be taken from a public employee “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay” using a “freely given” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.
Consistent with that standard, the Foundation urged the FLRA to issue guidance to agencies that they “must cease deducting union dues from the wages of employees who signed a dues deduction form that does not satisfy the [Janus] standard.” Federal employees who signed dues deduction authorizations before the Janus decision did not knowingly waive their Janus rights. Consequently, union dues cannot legally be deducted from their paychecks.
According to the Department of Labor, nearly one million federal employees (or 26.4% of all federal workers) are union members, most of whom are likely having dues deducted from their paychecks despite never having knowingly waived their First Amendment right not to subsidize union activities as protected by Janus.
Workers who want to voluntarily pay union dues must either provide the government with a valid waiver or pay dues on their own without using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to forward the money to union officials. The comments further argue that, even where workers provide a valid authorization for dues deductions that meets the Janus standard, the government should not block them from revoking that authorization if the request is submitted at any time at least a year after the Janus-complaint authorization was obtained.
Though federal workers have never been required to pay union dues or fees to keep a job, agencies and union officials frequently prohibit employees from stopping the seizure of union dues from their wages except during short annual escape periods. The comments filed by the National Right to Work Foundation say that this practice does not comply with Janus either.
“The Janus precedent is not ambiguous on this issue: Without an affirmative and knowing waiver from public workers, the government cannot collect union dues without violating the First Amendment,” explained National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The government is seizing union dues from close to one million federal workers in violation of the First Amendment, and federal agencies have an obligation to act swiftly to ensure that workers’ Janus rights are fully protected.”
Foundation staff attorneys have been hard at work ensuring that public workers’ constitutional rights under the Janus decision are protected, with more than 30 cases active in federal courts across the country to enforce the landmark ruling.
National Labor Relations Board Announces Rules to Limit Union Boss Tactics Trapping Workers in Unions They Oppose
Today the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced rulemaking to change its policies that permit union officials to block workers from holding decertification votes to remove unions. The alterations incorporate standards established in past NLRB cases argued by Foundation staff attorneys, and urged in comments submitted by staff attorneys to the Board.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following comments regarding the NLRB’s move:
“For years union officials have used a wide range of tactics to suppress the right to vote out a union that is opposed by a majority of workers. Today’s announced rules are a good first step in what needs to be a larger series of reforms that put the rights of workers ahead of the coercive legal powers that have been granted to union bosses. That Big Labor will oppose these proposals that simply make it easier for workers to vote for or against unionization in secret ballot elections demonstrates how much their power derives from legal trickery and not from the voluntary support of rank-and-file workers.”
The announced changes include the elimination of a “bar” blocking workers from voting out a union for a period of time after a union has been installed through a controversial “card check” process and reforms to the NLRB’s “blocking charge” policy that permits union officials to file Unfair Labor Practice charges that then block workers’ right to hold a decertification election, sometimes for years. Both of the proposed changes are reforms that Foundation staff attorneys have long pushed for, including in comments to the NLRB on the election rules submitted in April 2018.
Over the years, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated dozens of cases at the NLRB for workers whose petitions for decertification votes were not processed because of the two policies.
National Mediation Board Issues Foundation-Advocated ‘Commonsense Reform’ to Union Decertification Rules
Today the National Mediation Board (NMB) issued its final rule simplifying the process workers under the Railway Labor Act can use to decertify a union they oppose. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following comment regarding the rule change:
At long last the National Mediation Board is providing airline and railroad workers covered by the Railway Labor Act a straightforward way to remove unwanted union “representation” through a decertification vote.
The previous system – where workers had to create a “straw man” union just to challenge an incumbent union – only served to stymie workers’ rights and demonstrated the historic bias of the NMB in favor of compulsory unionism. In fact, it wasn’t until the Foundation-won case of Russell v. NMB in 1983 that workers even had an established legal right to throw off their union “representative,” albeit only through the unnecessarily complicated strawman system which is now finally being replaced with a simplified process to allow workers to exercise that right.
The Foundation has long advocated this type of change in the union decertification process and we are pleased the NMB has – as we called upon it to do in comments filed earlier this year – finally made this commonsense reform.
The full rule can be read here.