Michigan Rieth-Riley Workers Ask National Labor Relations Board to Stop Blocking Vote to Remove Unpopular IUOE Union
Request for Review: NLRB Region in Detroit has let IUOE officials delay employee vote using unproven allegations against employer to block election
Detroit, MI (April 22, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, Michigan-based employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, asking that they be allowed to exercise their right to hold a vote whether to oust the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 from their workplace.
Their request for review comes after NLRB Region 7 in Detroit held their petition for an election in abeyance based on unproven charges IUOE officials made, the majority more than one year ago, against Rieth-Riley. IUOE officials called a strike last July against Rieth-Riley, which has road construction projects across Michigan. However, many of its employees have exercised their right to continue working despite the union’s strike demands and are seeking to remove the union entirely.
The petition also comes after the NLRB amended its rules regarding how the agency deals with “blocking charges,” which are filed by union officials against employers in an attempt to stop rank-and-file employees from voting the union out.
The NLRB’s new rules acknowledge the inherent unfairness of the previous system, and in most circumstances will permit employees to have a vote despite union “blocking charges.” In the past, union officials could stay in power by blocking workers’ votes for months or even years while often unrelated allegations against employers were litigated. The new rule is set to go into effect this August, after being delayed two months due to what the Board said are COVID-19 concerns.
The employee who filed the union decertification petition, Rayalan Kent, recounts in his request for review that he and more than 30 percent of his fellow employees first tried to exercise their right to vote out IUOE Local 324 in March, when they submitted a petition for such a vote to NLRB Region 7. At that point, IUOE officials and Rieth-Riley had been bargaining for well over a year and had not yet finalized a contract, even after a July 2019 strike order from IUOE union bosses.
Although the petition has more than enough employee signatures to trigger the vote under the Board’s rules, Region 7 officials told Kent in an email that the election would be delayed “pending the investigation” of charges filed by IUOE officials against the employer. However, the Region provided Kent no information regarding the charges or “why they rose to the requisite level to block the employees’ petition.” The request for review also points out that the exercise of Kent’s and his coworkers’ rights to a vote could be delayed “apparently indefinitely” due to COVID-19 related delays in “blocking charge” cases.
According to the request for review, the three “blocking charges” filed by union bosses against Rieth-Riley allege behavior that took place almost two years ago in some instances and have no “causal connection” to the employees’ decertification petition. The Board’s delay of the election based on these unproven charges, the request argues, denies Rieth-Riley employees their right under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to vote out a union they disapprove of.
To vindicate the employees’ rights, especially in light of the new rule regarding “blocking charges,” the request asks the NLRB to “order Region 7 to proceed to a secret-ballot election without further delay.” The request points out that Region 7’s decision to continue blocking this election ignores “Petitioner and his fellow employees’ desire to be free from Local 324’s representation” and sacrifices “the employees’ free choice rights to an unpopular union’s claims.”
When it issued the new rule earlier this month, the NLRB cited dozens of times comments the Right to Work Foundation had submitted earlier this year. Those comments pointed out that the NLRB’s old rules regarding “blocking charges” served only to keep union bosses in power while forbidding employees from exercising their right to vote to eliminate unwanted unions, were merely the product of forced unionism-friendly board decisions, and were not required by the NLRA.
Kent and his coworkers are not the only Michigan workers dealing with election delays from NLRB Region 7. Lansing, MI transportation worker Sandy Harris is also asking the NLRB in Washington to apply the new rules regarding “blocking charges” to allow a vote to remove Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) bosses to occur at her workplace. As with Kent’s case, the vote was postponed without even a hearing as to whether the union’s charges have merit or if they have a causal connection to the employees’ petition for an election.
“These cases show again how union officials, often with assistance of NLRB Region officials, have abused the NLRB’s ‘blocking charge’ policy to nullify workers’ right under federal law to vote out unwanted unions,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB in Washington must take immediate action to protect employees’ free choice rights by not only reversing the decision to delay implementation of the new rule, but also by applying the new rule to all cases currently blocked under the old ‘blocking charge’ policy.”
Right to Work Foundation Celebrates West Virginia Supreme Court Decision Upholding Right to Work Protections
In union boss-backed case seeking to overturn Right to Work, Foundation filed 10 legal briefs defending law on behalf of workers
Charleston, WV (April 21, 2020) – The West Virginia Supreme Court has just unanimously upheld the state’s Right to Work protections, which ensure that no Mountain State worker is forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement on the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision:
“Today’s decision marks a great victory for Mountain State employees. The West Virginia Supreme Court rejected outrageous arguments from union lawyers that union hierarchies have a ‘right’ to extort money from workers forced to accept their so-called ‘representation,’ and in doing so protected the right of rank-and-file workers to freely choose whether or not to financially support a union. The court drew from a wide base of well-reasoned precedent for this conclusion, including the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision.
“Sustaining Right to Work ensures that employees across the state, including the workers whom the Foundation filed briefs for in this case, can rest assured that they cannot be fired for refusing to subsidize the agendas of union officials that they disapprove of, while permitting employees to financially support unions if they choose to.”
In the decision, Justice Evan Jenkins wrote for the majority that Right to Work “does not violate constitutional rights of association, property, or liberty” and that states are “expressly authorized under federal law” to prohibit union bosses from requiring dues or fees as a condition of employment. Four of the five justices also concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which was argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys, required them to uphold the law.
After the West Virginia Legislature overrode Governor Tomblin’s veto on the law and became the 26th Right to Work state on February 4, 2016, the National Right to Work Foundation announced an offer of free legal aid to any employees seeking to assert their rights under the new law. The Foundation also created a special task force to defend the West Virginia law, which went into full effect on July 1, 2016.
Later that year, lawyers for several state unions brought a case called West Virginia AFL-CIO, et al. v. Governor James C. Justice, et al. in an attempt to overturn the popular law. Polling consistently shows that Americans back Right to Work laws. A scientific survey also found that eighty percent of union members supported the Right to Work principle that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary and not required as a condition of employment.
Judge Jennifer Bailey of the Kanawha County Circuit Court granted a preliminary injunction on the law on February 23, 2017, at the behest of union lawyers. Similar arguments to the union lawyers’ primary arguments in this case for why the Right to Work protections for workers should be overturned had already been rejected by a Federal Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, and also ran counter to nearly 70 years of legal precedent upholding the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws, including U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
The case was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court by attorneys for the state. Foundation staff attorneys filed 10 legal briefs for workers whose rights would be at risk if the law was repealed, including Reginald Gibbs, an employee of the Greenbrier Hotel and Casino, and Donna Harper, a nursing assistant at the Genesis HealthCare Tygert Center.
This case is the latest legal battle in the Foundation’s long history of effectively defending Right to Work laws in state and federal court from union boss attacks. In addition to West Virginia, Foundation staff attorneys have successfully pursued legal action in recent years to defend and enforce new Right to Work laws in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Kentucky, all of which have passed Right to Work protections for employees since 2012. In Michigan alone, Foundation staff attorneys have assisted employees in over 100 cases since Right to Work went into effect in early 2013.
Union requires workers to request appointment in writing, appear in person, and provide photo ID just to receive paperwork about stopping union dues
Seattle, WA (April 17, 2020) – Employees of Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center have filed charges against Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW regarding union officials’ attempts to force the workers to pay union dues beyond what can be required by federal law. The charges were filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Charges filed for Daniel Dalison, one of the two workers, recounts that SEIU bosses ignored his attempts to resign his union membership and pay reduced dues after he had discovered those rights. For months the union flouted his requests and kept seizing full union dues.
Dalison contends that the union officials have denied his rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck mandates that private sector workers who choose to refrain from formal union membership can only be required to pay the part of dues directly related to the union’s bargaining functions. Union bosses also must inform employees of the reduced amount of union fees they can pay under Beck by objecting to formal union membership, and must provide an independent audit of the union’s expenses.
Because Washington State has not enacted Right to Work protections for its employees, Dalison and his coworkers can be forced to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment.
Dalison’s charge explains that when he asked for copies of any union documents he had signed, union officials informed him that they have a policy requiring employees to “apply in writing and appear in person with a photo ID” to get their own paperwork regarding membership and dues check off authorization documents.
Dalison argues that this policy exists only to “delay and hinder employees from exercising their rights to resign union membership and revoke their dues checkoff authorizations.”
A second employee, Roger White, similarly charges that SEIU bosses have disregarded two of his attempts to resign his union membership and exercise his Beck rights. Despite admitting to him that “35% of the dues were spent on political and nonrepresentational activities,” SEIU officials did not reduce his dues for months, according to his charge. White also argues that his second request should have been effective in revoking his dues checkoff authorization, as a strike was going on at the time and there was no contract in effect between Swedish Medical Center and the SEIU, nullifying any obligation he had to pay dues over that period.
Both charges note that SEIU 1199NW is a “repeat [National Labor Relations Act] violator.” This is the second round of federal charges against SEIU 1199NW for Dalison, who filed charges in January 2020 asserting that union officials had never given employees “adequate notice of their rights under Beck” and had refused to stop all dues deductions when he revoked his dues checkoff authorization during the strike.
Another employee of Swedish Medical Center, NancyEllen Elster, won a settlement with Foundation aid against SEIU 1199NW bosses in October 2019. NLRB Region 19 had found merit in Elster’s charges that SEIU bosses had never given a proper Beck rights notice to employees, and had denied her request to pay the reduced dues amount under Beck. The settlement was supposed to rectify these rights violations, but SEIU officials are apparently now in violation of that settlement.
“Given the unprecedented challenges healthcare workers currently face, it is especially outrageous that they also have to deal with SEIU union bosses violating their rights just to stuff the union’s coffers with more forced dues,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “NLRB Region 19 must act swiftly and decisively to ensure that SEIU officials are held accountable for the continuing rights violations at Swedish Medical Center, but these cases demonstrate the abuses that inevitably occur when union officials are granted the power to force employees to subsidize their activities or be terminated from employment.”
National Labor Relations Board to Prosecute NABET-CWA Union for Demanding $10,000 from ESPN Cameraman
Complaint charges NABET-CWA union bosses failed to provide mandated breakdown of fees, while demanding cameraman pay up or be fired
Portland, OR (April 15, 2020) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle has issued a complaint in the case of an Oregon-based ABC/ESPN cameraman, who in July 2019 charged National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 51 union officials with demanding thousands of dollars in union fees from him in violation of his rights. The cameraman filed his charges with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The cameraman, Jeremy Brown, asserted in his charge against NABET bosses that it had infringed his rights under the Right to Work Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck mandates that private sector workers who choose to refrain from formal union membership can only be forced to pay the portion of dues directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions. It also requires union bosses to inform employees of the reduced amount of union fees they can pay if they object to formal union membership and to provide an independent audit of the union’s expenses.
Because Brown works mostly in states that have not enacted Right to Work protections for employees, he can be required to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment. However, union officials can only require workers to pay the portion of dues Beck allows and must follow Beck procedures before seizing such forced fees from workers who are not union members.
The complaint notes that Brown began working as a “freelance daily hire” for ABC/ESPN in about 2016. In February 2019, he received a letter from NABET officials informing him he was in a monopoly bargaining unit under the union’s control, and that he must pay an initiation fee of approximately $6,431. In April of the same year, union bosses sent him another letter alleging that Brown also owed $3,429.60 in unpaid union dues from December 2016 to January 2019. This letter threatened that Brown would not be “eligible for future employment” if he refused to pay.
On April 4, Brown sent an email to the president of the NABET local objecting to full union dues and demanding his Beck rights. Throughout April 2019 and into June 2019, Brown continued to follow up with union officials on his request, but to date has received no response.
NLRB Region 19’s complaint declares that NABET officials have violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by denying Brown his Beck rights. This includes failing to provide Brown “with a good faith determination of the sum amount of reduced fees and dues” that union nonmembers can pay, failing to provide a “detailed apportionment” of the union’s expenses, and not informing Brown of the proper way to submit his Beck objection after his multiple attempts to do so.
As a remedy, the complaint seeks an order requiring NABET bosses “to reimburse Charging Party for non-representational dues and fees collected since April 2019” and take only the portion of fees allowed by Beck from his paycheck in the future. The NLRB has scheduled a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Brown’s case for September 29, 2020.
“NABET bosses threatened Jeremy Brown’s livelihood just so they could stuff thousands of his hard-earned dollars into their pockets in clear violation of his rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although we are encouraged that NLRB Region 19 has taken steps to prosecute the union for this blatant malfeasance, cases like this demonstrate why every state must enact Right to Work protections for their workers so none are forced to subsidize union activities as a condition of employment.”
Right to Work Foundation Files Comments Urging FLRA to Eliminate Restrictions on Federal Employees’ Right to Cut Off Union Dues
Federal statute must be interpreted to protect employees’ First Amendment rights under Janus
Washington, DC (April 9, 2020) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed comments with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) supporting the agency’s proposed final rule to permit federal employees to exercise their right to cut off union dues deductions from their paychecks any time one year or more after authorizing such deductions. The comments are submitted in response to the FLRA’s February request for comments on the proposed rule.
The FLRA noted in its request that such a standard would adhere better to the statute governing dues deductions for federal employees. It would also stop federal union officials from limiting workers to just a small “escape period” once every year in the exercise of their right to end dues deductions. On the other hand, the proposed rule would not prevent any employee from voluntarily paying union dues.
The Foundation supports the proposed rule’s elimination of non-statutory restrictions on employees’ right to stop union dues deductions because the rule would effectuate employees’ right to choose whether to support a union under both the applicable federal statute and the First Amendment.
In the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Court ruled that public employees have a First Amendment right not to subsidize union speech and that the government violates that right by seizing union dues from nonconsenting employees. The proposed rule will be a step forward to bringing federal labor law into compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus.
“We are encouraged by the FLRA’s attempt to stop federal union bosses from unfairly restricting the rights of the workers they claim to represent just to fill their coffers with more dues,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, more still needs to be done. To fully comply with the Janus decision, the FLRA also should ensure that affirmative and knowing consent is obtained from federal workers before union dues are deducted from their paychecks so none are compelled to support union activities against their wishes.”
The FLRA is also currently accepting comments on whether or not union officials can legally use official time, which occurs when union officials are paid by taxpayers while doing union business, on lobbying activities. The agency has sought those comments – due April 24th – because of a request filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation which argued that such activities violate longstanding federal law.
Union officials attempted to use technicality to block employees’ right to vote despite clear showing workers opposed union
Shrewsbury, NJ (April 9, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Loundy Saint Louis, an employee of the Meridian Health Nursing and Rehabilitation facility in Shrewsbury has successfully petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a vote to remove the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 at her workplace. In a ruling Monday the NLRB overturned an earlier decision by a regional office in Newark, which had blocked her original petition despite a sufficient showing of interest by the employees for a vote.
According to the NLRB’s decision, a different employee of the nursing home had submitted a petition for a vote to remove the SEIU union on June 11, 2019, which contained signatures from enough employees to trigger the election. Though that employee withdrew the petition a week later, NLRB Region 22 maintained possession of the employees’ showing of interest in having the vote. Loundy Saint Louis then stepped up and submitted a new decertification petition on June 25. She asked the Regional Director to schedule a vote based on the recent showing of interest that it still had in its possession from the prior petition.
The Regional Director sided with union bosses and rebuffed Saint Louis’ petition, on the grounds that the employee that submitted the first petition “had not instructed or requested the Region to transfer the showing of interest to the Petitioner,” according to the NLRB’s decision.
Saint Louis then filed a petition for review, which pointed out that the prior petitioner’s permission is “irrelevant to whether the showing of interest is valid” in proving there is sufficient interest among the employees in a vote whether to oust the union, and that Saint Louis was merely acting for her coworkers.
The full NLRB in Washington granted Saint Louis’ request for review filed by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. It ruled that “the petitioner in a decertification case merely acts ‘[on] behalf of employees’” and that the showing of interest in the earlier petition “still reflects the wishes of the employees.”
The Board reversed Region 22’s dismissal of Saint Louis’ petition and ordered that the Region take “further appropriate action” consistent with the Board’s decision, i.e., schedule the requested election.
This decision comes after the NLRB issued a final rule last week which removed some of the barriers employees face when trying to exercise their right to vote out a union that they oppose. These reforms, long-advocated for by the National Right to Work Foundation, included a reform in how the NLRB handles union “blocking charges” filed against employers with the intent of stopping employee attempts to decertify a union.
The final rule also substantially eliminates the “voluntary recognition bar,” which union bosses manipulate to block workers from requesting a secret ballot election after a union is installed as the monopoly bargaining agent through an abuse-prone “card check” drive. In justifying these rule changes the NLRB cited the Foundation’s comments submitted during the rulemaking process dozens of times.
“Although this victory is certainly good news, it is outrageous that SEIU union bosses were able to delay for months the right of Ms. Saint Louis and her coworkers to vote to decertify the union when, as the NLRB observed, there was clear evidence that more than enough workers were interested in having such an election,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As the NLRB pointed out in its decision, mere technicalities like a change in petitioner should never serve as grounds to erase proof that a sufficient number of workers are interested in a decertification election.”
Michigan Worker Petitions NLRB to Apply New “Blocking Charge” Rule Protecting Right of Workers to Remove Unwanted Unions
Workers blocked from simply holding a vote to remove unpopular ATU union for months following union bosses’ unproven claims
Lansing, MI (April 8, 2020) – A Lansing transportation worker has just submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C., requesting that the Board permit her and her coworkers to vote whether to remove the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) from power at their workplace. The petition was filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys and responds to “blocking charges” ATU officials filed against her employer which have delayed the election.
The petition comes after the NLRB issued a final rule last week reforming the process by which union “blocking charges” are handled. “Blocking charges” are filed by union officials to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their right to vote whether to remove a union. The new rules generally permit employees to proceed with a vote whenever they demonstrate the necessary showing of interest. In the past unions could stay in power by blocking workers’ votes for months or even years while often unrelated allegations against employers were litigated. The new rule is set to go into effect this June.
According to this petition, the employee, Sandy Harris, filed a request for an election to remove the union in November 2019. Before her request was filed, the petition says, ATU union bosses filed “blocking charges” against her employer, Transdev Services. The NLRB Regional Director in Detroit then blocked the vote from taking place without an investigation or a hearing into whether the charges have merit. Harris’ petition notes that five months have now passed since an election was requested and that further delays are likely to occur now due to the impact of coronavirus on the NLRB’s operations.
In light of the NLRB’s new rules, Harris’ petition contends that the NLRB should process the employees’ request for a decertification election now and permit them to vote as soon as reasonably possible. This, according to the petition, would “vindicate the employees’ right to petition for a decertification election” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and prevent them from being “stuck in limbo” while waiting for the new rules to take effect this June. The petition also points out that union lawyers could and are likely to challenge the NLRB’s new rules in court, which could further slow the process.
The NLRB cited comments the Foundation submitted earlier this year dozens of times when it issued the final rule last week. Those comments pointed out that the NLRB’s old rules regarding “blocking charges” served only to keep union bosses in power while forbidding employees from exercising their right to vote to eliminate unwanted unions, and were merely the product of forced unionism-friendly board decisions, and not required by the NLRA itself.
“NLRB Region 7, by clinging to outdated, union boss-friendly rules, has allowed the ATU to remain in power at Ms. Harris’ workplace while needlessly stifling Ms. Harris’ and her coworkers’ right to vote out an unwanted union from their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB should quickly enforce the new protections for employees.”
“It is outrageous that union officials continue to contend that workers’ right under the National Labor Relations Act to a decertification vote should be restricted based on unproven allegations of employer conduct,” added Mix.
Worker Advocate Encouraged by National Labor Relations Board Rule Rolling Back Barriers to Workers Voting Out Unions
Reform follows changes long advocated by National Right to Work Foundation, which has litigated hundreds of cases for workers seeking to oust unwanted unions
Washington, DC (April 1, 2020) – Citing comments from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today formally issued a final rule eliminating some of the barriers that workers face when attempting to exercise their right to vote to remove an unwanted union.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement on the NLRB’s final rule:
While this NLRB still has much more to do, this long-awaited rule represents a significant step forward towards fully protecting the statutory right of employees under the Act to remove a union opposed by a majority of workers.
The blocking charge policy that is finally being modified has always been particularly odious in its treatment of employee rights, in that it allows union officials’ allegations against an employer to be grounds for blocking the statutory rights of employees who are not accused of any wrongdoing. Needless to say, in any other context, union bosses would be howling about employer conduct being used as grounds for blocking employees’ rights under the Act, yet here they support nullifying workers’ rights on the basis of any unproven allegation.
There are still additional non-statutory barriers to decertification that should to be eliminated, but we are encouraged that the Board took this step and thankful it made modifications to the proposed rule as advocated by the Foundation in its comments.
The rule reforms how the NLRB deals with union “blocking charges,” which are filed by union officials to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their right to vote to remove a union. Under the old rules, unions could block workers’ requested votes from taking place for months or even years by making allegations against the employer.
Under the new rule, union unfair labor practice charges cannot stall a vote from taking place. Additionally, and in apparent response to the Foundation’s comments, the NLRB modified its proposed rule so that in most cases ballots will be counted and not impounded, with the tallies released promptly.
The NLRB also substantially eliminated the so-called “voluntary recognition bar,” which was used by union officials to block workers from requesting a secret ballot election after a union was installed as the monopoly bargaining agent through an abuse-prone “card check” drive that bypassed the NLRB-supervised election process. The Trump NLRB did so by reinstating a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp. NLRB decision. Although thousands of workers used the Dana process to secure secret ballot votes after being unionized through abusive card checks, the Obama NLRB voided employees’ Dana rights in 2010.
Additionally, the NLRB adopted the changes supported by the Foundation’s January comments to crack down on construction industry schemes through which employers and union bosses unilaterally install a union in a workplace without first providing proof of majority union support among the workers. Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in a key case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously reversed the Obama Board and ruled for the worker who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.
Alaska Vocational Instructor Files Lawsuit against Union, State Challenging Dues Seizures in Violation of First Amendment
Alaska Governor attempted to affirmatively protect state employees’ Janus rights with Executive Order, but union bosses are blocking its enforcement
Anchorage, AK (March 31, 2020) – An Alaska prison employee has just filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Alaska State Employees’ Association (ASEA) union and State of Alaska for restrictions on his and his coworkers’ First Amendment right to refrain from subsidizing a union. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
The lawsuit, filed by Christopher Woods, says the ASEA union’s dues deduction scheme violates his and his coworkers’ First Amendment rights under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision. The union scheme forbids employees from exercising their right to cut off union dues except during an annual 10-day “escape period.” However, in Janus, the high court ruled that no public sector employee can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, and that the First Amendment is violated when union officials deduct dues from the paychecks of public sector employees without their affirmative and knowing consent.
Woods began working as a Vocational Instructor at Goose Creek Correctional Center in 2013 and joined the union “because he was told by a union representative that he had no choice,” according to the lawsuit. His complaint reports that, on November 26, 2019, he sent an email to ASEA officials exercising his Janus right to “stop [his] union dues withdrawal.” A union official replied to him the same day and rebuffed his request, telling Woods that “he could only ‘opt out and not be a union member with written notice to this office’” within a 10-day period each year before the date he signed his original dues deduction authorization card.
Woods persisted on December 2, 2019, submitting to both ASEA officials and the payroll office of the Corrections Department another email asking to cut off dues. Although the payroll office confirmed to both Woods and the ASEA that it had received the request, an ASEA official responded by merely telling the payroll office that she was “still communicating with [Woods] on the matter,” the complaint says. Woods reports in his lawsuit that he has “not received any further communications” from either the ASEA or the payroll office, and that full dues are still being seized from his paychecks.
Woods’ lawsuit asks the District Court to rule that the ASEA union’s “escape period” enforced by the state and the deduction of union dues from his and other state employees’ paychecks without their clear, knowing consent violates his and his coworkers’ First Amendment rights. It also requests refunds of illegally seized dues for himself and his coworkers. Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka is named as a party in her official capacity only, due to the State of Alaska’s role in the unconstitutional dues deductions.
The federal lawsuit comes after an Anchorage Superior Court Judge put a hold on Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s order last year that all public sector unions in the state must obtain clear consent from all workers before deducting any union dues or fees, as Janus requires. That judge opined that Janus applies only to workers who are not formal union members, despite the fact that unions use their dues deduction policies to block workers from stopping dues even after they have resigned from formal union membership.
“Once again, Alaska union bosses are demonstrating that they will violate the First Amendment rights of the employees they claim to represent if it means stuffing their pockets with more forced dues,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Ironically Alaska has taken the lead in attempting to proactively protect its employees’ First Amendment rights, but because union bosses have successfully resisted the Governor’s Executive Order so far this lawsuit is necessary.”
Wood’s legal team includes two Foundation staff attorneys who have successfully challenged forced union dues schemes in the U.S Supreme Court, not only in the landmark 2018 Janus case, but also in two earlier cases – Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014). Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases for workers seeking to vindicate their First Amendment rights under the Janus precedent.
Gompers Preparatory Academy Educators File Response to SDEA Union Bosses’ Continued Attempts to Block Vote to Remove Union
Disastrous AB5 sponsor sides with union officials against teachers who remain trapped under union monopoly
San Diego, CA (March 27, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, educators at San Diego’s Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA) are urging California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) officials to let a secret-ballot vote proceed that could remove San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses from power at the school. GPA teachers filed a response to union “blocking charges” brought against the school which could stall, for another year, the teachers’ right to a decertification election.
SDEA officials installed the union at the school in January 2019 after conducting a controversial “card check” drive, bypassing the more reliable method of a secret-ballot election whether to choose a union as the monopoly representative of all educators in the school. GPA transitioned from being a regular public school to a charter preparatory academy in 2005 as the result of a campaign by parents, teachers, and administrators who believed that school district and union bureaucracies were not serving the students’ interests, especially by failing to combat gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.
GPA parents and educators have accused union agents of sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation, making unnecessary and disparaging comments to school leadership during bargaining sessions, and plotting to prevent the California NAACP from giving the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, an award for helping minority students succeed.
Dr. Kristie Chiscano, who teaches chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students at GPA, began circulating a petition for a vote to decertify the union in October 2019. She soon obtained the signatures of well over the number of her fellow educators necessary to trigger a PERB-supervised secret-ballot vote to remove the union.
But, in December of last year, union officials preemptively filed a charge against the school seeking “that the certification year be extended.” That would block the educators’ right to remove the union from their workplace for another year despite no evidence or even an allegation that any educator violated the law. Such meritless “blocking charges” are a regular tactic union lawyers use to block rank-and-file employees from holding secret-ballot elections that may result in the removal of union officials from power.
Dr. Chiscano sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys to decertify the union, and is now fighting to counter union “blocking charges.” The response filed with the PERB argues that the allegations union officials are making against the school’s leadership have no connection to the decertification effort and should not serve as grounds to deny the teachers’ right to a secret-ballot decertification vote. “PERB should thus proceed with a secret-ballot election as soon as practicable so Petitioner Chiscano and her fellow Gompers employees can exercise their right” to vote the union out, the response argues.
Meanwhile, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has jumped into the controversy on the side of SDEA union bosses. In a letter to GPA leadership she attacked the Right to Work Foundation simply for providing legal aid to GPA educators as they seek to exercise their right to hold a decertification election. The Foundation has provided legal aid to thousands upon thousands of teachers, including many charter school teachers.
Gonzalez, who regularly sides with union bosses over rank-and-file workers, introduced California’s disastrous AB 5 measure, which was written by union lobbyists and designed to foist union monopoly representation and forced union dues on independent contractors across the state of California. The bill has already led to a significant drop in opportunities for many workers across the state.
“SDEA union bosses are continuing to manipulate legal procedures to keep the educators they claim to represent trapped in union ranks instead of just letting them exercise their right to hold a decertification election,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys will continue to fight for Dr. Chiscano and her fellow educators until they are able to decide, free of coercion, who will speak for them in the workplace.”
Mix continued: “All these educators seek is a secret ballot vote to see whether a majority of their colleagues want the disruptive union out of their school. It is disgraceful but not surprising that Assemblywoman Gonzalez, who is elected by secret ballot, is opposing these teachers’ attempt to exercise their legal rights.”