Foundation Wins Settlement in Case Challenging CWA Union Scheme to Block New Mexico State Employees from Exercising Janus Rights
Union officials to pay back more than $16,000 illegally seized from workers’ paychecks and remove union-imposed restrictions on cutting off dues payments
Albuquerque, N.M. (October 21, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have won a settlement in a case to protect New Mexico state employees’ rights as recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision last year.
As the result of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union, CWA union officials will refund thousands of dollars taken from state employees and eliminate a union policy that blocked workers from opting out of paying dues. The settlement agreement, executed last Thursday, resolved the class-action lawsuit filed in December by New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) employee David McCutcheon against CWA union Local 7076 and New Mexico’s State Personnel Director Pamela D. Coleman.
As part of the settlement, the union officials will remove the union-created “escape period” which limited when workers could revoke their dues authorization. The union will also pay back fully, plus interest, all dues taken from McCutcheon and others who had attempted to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus, but were blocked from doing so because of the “escape period” restrictions.
“Local 7076 and CWA will not enter into any [union contract] with the State of New Mexico that restricts to a yearly window period the time when a bargaining unit member may revoke a previously authorized dues deduction authorization,” the settlement reads.
All told, CWA union officials will refund more than $15,000 taken from 67 state employees, plus an additional $1,000 paid to McCutcheon for dues taken before Janus. The settlement became final today when District Court Judge Martha Vazquez approved a joint motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
McCutcheon works as an IT technician at New Mexico’s DoIT and was forced to pay union dues as a member before the Janus ruling last summer. After the Foundation-won victory, McCutcheon attempted to end the dues payments only to be told he could only do so during a brief two-week period in December.
Public sector union bosses across the country have attempted to enforce such schemes to block workers from exercising their Janus rights, resulting in over a dozen cases brought with National Right to Work Foundation legal aid. In addition to McCutcheon’s lawsuit, union officials in Minnesota, Ohio and California have also rescinded such policies rather than litigate against Foundation staff attorneys in federal court.
“Respecting workers’ Janus rights is not optional, it’s the law. Public sector workers’ First Amendment rights cannot be limited to just a few days a year,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These union boss created ‘window periods’ clearly infringe on workers’ rights and are being struck down in lawsuits coast-to-coast brought with Foundation legal aid.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Chicago Teachers Facing Strike: You Have Right to Refuse to Abandon Your Students
Recent cases brought by Foundation staff attorneys demonstrate union officials frequently mislead workers about their rights during a union-ordered strike
Chicago, IL (October 16, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have issued a special legal notice to the over 20,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers who will be affected by the strike planned by Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) union officials to begin on October 17.
The legal notice informs rank-and-file CPS teachers of the rights CPU bosses won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to refuse to abandon their students and to keep working to support their families despite the union ordered strike. The notice discusses why workers across the country frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations.
“This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be fully informed before they do so.”
The full notice is available at https://www.nrtw.org/ctu-strike/.
The notice clearly outlines the process that teachers should follow if they want to exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishment from union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters. It also reminds teachers of their First Amendment right as public employees under the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision to cut off union dues deductions from their paychecks at any time. Teachers are encouraged in the notice to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience illegal restrictions on any of these rights.
The Foundation has recently assisted multiple employees who have been targets of union boss rights violations around strikes. Foundation staff attorneys recently won cases for two Massachusetts grocery workers who had been intimidated and harassed during the high-profile April 2019 strike on Stop & Shop ordered by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) bosses.
“CTU bosses appear intent on attempting to shut down Chicago schools with a strike in order to flex their political muscle, even if leaving children out in the cold achieves nothing for the rank-and-file teachers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Chicago teachers must decide for themselves whether abandoning their students at the behest of CTU officials is really what is best for them, and Foundation staff attorneys stand by to assist those teachers who want to continue teaching their students and provide for their families.”
Seattle Nurse Wins Settlement of Federal Charges Against SEIU Union for Illegal Misinformation and Other Rights Violations
Nurse was never informed of her right to object to full union dues as a nonmember and later had union dues illegally seized from her paycheck by union bosses
Seattle, WA (October 9, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have just won a settlement for Seattle, Washington-based nurse NancyEllen Elster, after Service Employee International Union (SEIU) 1199NW officials were charged with violating federal labor law by misinforming her about her rights and later enforcing illegal restrictions on her right to stop paying for union political activities and other lawfully “non-chargeable” expenses. The settlement, which validates and remedies her unfair labor practice charge against the union, was approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle.
NancyEllen Elster works at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, which is under the monopoly bargaining power of the SEIU. Because Washington is not a Right to Work state, she can be required to pay fees to the union as a condition of employment, but the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision limits this to just the portion of union dues directly germane to bargaining.
Elster reported in her unfair labor practice charge against the union that SEIU officials had never properly apprised her or other workers about this right or provided the independent audit of the union’s calculation of its non-chargeable expenses that is required because of Beck. NLRB prosecutors additionally found that union officials failed to disseminate legally required information about the percentage of union fees employees could pay by abstaining from formal union membership.
Elster recounted in her charge that she sent SEIU bosses a letter in April 2019 resigning her membership and demanding that only the reduced amount of union fees permitted under Beck be taken from her wages. Union officials responded that she had missed a “window period” for Beck objections concocted by the union hierarchy. They also claimed that she would have to submit additional arbitrary paperwork to have her rights recognized. Elster had never been informed of this purported “window period” at any time in the past, but SEIU bosses continued to seize full dues from her paycheck in violation of her rights.
The NLRB settlement, won with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, orders SEIU officials to post notices that the union will no longer “apply [its] window period to become Beck objectors in order to foreclose employees resigning their union membership” or “fail … to reduce the monthly fee payment of objecting nonmembers” to the amount directly related to bargaining purposes. SEIU bosses also must refund to Elster fees they exacted from her paycheck in violation of Beck and inform employees who refrain from formal union membership of “the percentage of the fees reduction” they would receive by exercising their Beck rights.
Elster’s settlement comes on the heels of SEIU 775 in Washington State being forced to refund well over $3 million to home-based healthcare providers in the state who asserted in a 2014 lawsuit that the SEIU had diverted a percentage of Medicaid payments from them to the union in violation of their statutory and constitutional rights.
“Whether it’s a nurse in the private sector like NancyEllen Elster, or just private citizens who provide healthcare at home to relatives, SEIU officials are more concerned with stuffing their bank accounts with illegal forced union dues than respecting the legal rights of those they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Beck provides at least a check on this coercive power for private sector workers, but Foundation staff attorneys will keep fighting until no workers in America are forced to sacrifice part of their paychecks to union bosses they oppose.”
Stop & Shop Employees Win Settlement Against UFCW Union Officials for Labor Law Violations Around Recent Strike
Settlements: Union officials must inform employees of their rights to refrain from formal union membership and halt their illegal discipline during or after strikes
Boston, MA (October 2, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have won favorable settlements for Stop & Shop supermarket employees whose rights were violated by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) officials before, during, and after the union boss-ordered strike on the grocery chain in April 2019. The extraordinary settlements were directed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 1 in Boston.
Two employees, Matthew Coffey and Saood Rafique, had been misled by union agents from the start of their respective employments into thinking that joining the UFCW was a condition of employment at Stop & Shop. Such an arrangement, sometimes called a “closed shop,” was outlawed by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Having never informed the employees that they had the rights to refrain from formal union membership and to pay reduced fees as nonmembers, UFCW bosses also charged each of them full union dues for years.
After independently learning their rights at the onset of the April strike, both men decided to resign union membership and return to work. UFCW officials then threatened them with illegal union discipline for violating their alleged “membership” oaths.
The settlements require UFCW union officials to post remedial rights notices in over 70 Stop & Shop stores, as well as on the internet and in the union’s monthly newsletter, to properly inform employees of their rights to both abstain from union membership and pay only the amount of union fees directly germane to bargaining. These settlements enforce the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. The remedial notices also announce that UFCW officials will return to Coffey and Rafique dues seized from them in violation of their Beck rights.
Also included in the remedial notices are declarations that UFCW officials will “process resignations and objections of [all] bargaining unit employees who have resigned” union membership and “will not threaten [employees] with internal union discipline or fines” for returning to work during a strike. The settlements totally vindicate the unfair labor practice charges filed by the two grocery workers.
Both Coffey and Rafique experienced vicious backlash and retaliation from UFCW agents for exercising their right to rebuff the union bosses’ strike orders. Coffey’s initial unfair labor practice charge, filed with free assistance from the Foundation, reports that UFCW agents targeted him with personal slurs, threats of violence, and other forms of harassment after he went back to work.
Rafique asserted in his charge, also filed with Foundation help, that a UFCW steward told other employees not to work with him once the strike concluded “to make his job duties…more difficult to carry out.” After the strike, Coffey received letters from union bosses containing illegal demands that he appear before a UFCW tribunal to face punishment for exercising his right to remain on the job rather than participate in the union boss-ordered strike.
The settlements come amid similar UFCW boss strike threats up and down the West Coast, from California to Washington State. They also occur during continuing tensions arising from the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors while its current and former heads are embroiled in a widening fraud and embezzlement investigation that has already led to multiple convictions. Just as Foundation staff attorneys issued a special legal notice in the Spring to workers affected by the Stop & Shop strike, Foundation attorneys have issued a notice of their rights for GM workers affected by the UAW boss strike: www.nrtw.org/UAW-GM.
“This victory for Mr. Rafique, Mr. Coffey, and their co-workers should serve as a reminder to all American employees – and union officials – that the individual rights of workers don’t cease to exist when union bosses call a strike,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Workers have a legal right to defy union boss strike demands, and workers subjected to union threats, harassment or worse for exercising those rights can turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in holding union bosses accountable for their illegal actions.”
National Right to Work Foundation Praises Alaska Governor’s Order to Protect Employees’ First Amendment Rights Under Janus
New rule ensures state employees give affirmative and knowing consent before dues are collected from their paychecks
Juneau, AK (September 27, 2019) – Yesterday Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced an executive order to help protect the First Amendment rights of all state employees under the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. Under the new rule, the State of Alaska will deduct union fees only from the paychecks of employees who have filed a waiver with the state acknowledging their wishes to have union dues taken from their paychecks despite their right under Janus not to fund any union activities.
In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled that government workers cannot be required to pay union dues or fees and further recognized that the First Amendment is violated when any such payments are collected absent a worker’s clear and knowing voluntary consent.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix lauded Alaska’s defense of state workers’ First Amendment rights:
“Every American employee deserves the right to choose, free of coercion or manipulation, who will be his or her voice in the workplace. The Supreme Court in Janus extended this freedom to all public sector employees, and Alaska took a major step forward yesterday in protecting the First Amendment rights of state employees recognized in Janus.
Alaska is proactively ensuring workers are not relinquishing their First Amendment rights absent the clear and knowing voluntary waiver required by the Janus precedent. We urge other states to follow Alaska’s lead and prioritize the constitutional rights of state employees under the Janus precedent.”
Janus was argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2018. Days after the ruling came down, Foundation Legal Director Raymond J. LaJeunesse sent a letter to then-Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Leslie Ridle and 20 other payroll managers in states with forced union dues for government employees urging them to fully comply with the decision by stopping payments unless employees have given a knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to fund union activities. The letter points out that the Supreme Court’s decision specifically held that a waiver of such rights “’cannot be presumed[,’ r]ather, to be effective, the waiver must be freely given and shown by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence.”
LaJeunesse’s letter also asserted that, if state comptrollers did not comply with Janus, “Foundation staff attorneys will bring a civil rights action seeking class-wide injunctive relief.” To date, Foundation staff attorneys have filed over 30 lawsuits seeking to enforce workers’ rights under the Janus precedent.
General Motors Employee Hits UAW Union Bosses with Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charge for Illegal Discrimination
Charge: UAW officials illegally discriminated against nonmember worker causing GM to block possible promotion
Lansing, MI (September 18, 2019) – General Motors (GM) employee Joseph Small has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Auto Worker (UAW) Local 652 union with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
According to the charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, union officials interfered in the interview and hiring process for an opening at GM for which Small had applied. Union officials later admitted the position went to a union member instead of Small because Small had exercised his legal right to refrain from union membership and from paying union dues.
This discrimination against Small by UAW union officials violates his legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA outlaws discrimination by union officials against workers who elect to refrain from union activity. Small exercised his rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law, which not only allows workers to decline union membership but allows workers to stop any payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
The unfair labor practice charge by Small comes as UAW officials have ordered a nationwide strike against GM affecting over 40,000 workers. The Foundation has issued a special notice to GM employees informing them about how to exercise their legal rights to refrain from participating in the strike and return to work.
The notice can be found here: www.nrtw.org/UAW-GM
Meanwhile, UAW officials have been caught up in an expanding corruption and embezzlement scandal that has resulted in numerous indictments, with the FBI reportedly recently raiding the home of current UAW President Gary Jones just weeks ago. In a separate case brought Foundation staff attorneys, the NLRB issued a decision earlier this month holding that UAW officials illegally seized dues from a Ford Motors employee’s paycheck while ordering the union to return the funds.
“UAW union officials continue to show a willingness to break the law, even violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Whether it be federal corruption prosecutions or unfair labor practice charges at the NLRB, UAW bosses must be held accountable when they break the law.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for General Motors Workers Affected by UAW Boss-Ordered Strike
Workers have legal right to rebuff strike demands from UAW officials, several of whom are connected to massive federal corruption and embezzlement investigation
Detroit, MI (September 17, 2019) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a legal notice to the over 46,000 General Motors employees affected by the strike ordered by United Auto Workers (UAW) union bosses.
The strike order and legal notice come amid an intensifying federal investigation concerning misuse of union funds by UAW executives, which has already yielded criminal charges and FBI raids against sitting and retired union officials, including current and previous UAW presidents. The legal notice informs rank-and-file GM workers of the rights UAW bosses 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 notice discusses why workers frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations: “This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike. That is why workers confronted with strike demands 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 full notice can be found at www.nrtw.org/UAW-GM.
It also notes the recent victory Foundation staff attorneys won for a Michigan auto worker whose rights were violated by UAW officials. In a National Labor Relations Board decision earlier this month, the board held UAW officials illegally seized dues from the worker’s paycheck and ordered the union to return the funds.
“Given the swirling federal corruption and embezzlement scandal now engulfing the highest levels of the UAW hierarchy, it is understandable that many rank-and-file GM employees may conclude that this strike is more about distracting from UAW boss misdeeds than what is actually best for rank-and-file workers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Individual workers must decide for themselves whether abandoning their jobs at the behest of UAW bosses is really what is best for them and their families, especially given recent reports that officials at the highest levels of the UAW hierarchy are in the crosshairs of the FBI.”
“Striking GM workers have the legal right to return to work, but it is imperative they read the full legal notice in order to protect themselves against any UAW officials’ attempts to punish them for returning to work and rebuffing union strike demands,” added Mix.
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.”