17 Aug 2019

Stop & Shop Strike Fallout: Grocery Worker Hits UFCW with Two Federal Charges

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses bullied and illegally threatened to discipline employee who defied strike demands

Joe Biden UFCW Union

Ardent forced dues-supporter and former Vice President Joe Biden joined with UFCW bosses on the picket lines during the Stop & Shop strike, even as UFCW officials were violating the rights of rank-and-file workers.

NORTHAMPTON, MA – Stop & Shop employee Matthew Coffey, one of thousands across New England who were ordered to strike by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses in April, has filed two unfair labor practice charges against the union for violating his rights before, during and after the strike.

Coffey charges that UFCW officials lied to him about union membership requirements at the beginning of his tenure with Stop & Shop, misinformed him about his right to continue working during the strike, targeted him with personal slurs when he did decide to keep working and finally tried to illegally discipline him once the strike concluded.

From Start of Employment, UFCW Bosses Misled Worker

According to his first charge, union officials led Coffey to believe that Stop & Shop is a “closed shop.” As a result, he joined the UFCW when hired in 2017, under the impression that union membership was required to keep his job.

It wasn’t until the April strike that he discovered “closed shops” are illegal under federal law and he had the legal right to refrain from formal union membership.

With this new knowledge, he returned to work and filed his first charge against UFCW Local 1459 with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. That charge detailed union lies about his right to refrain from union membership and resign before the strike.

It also detailed harassment he endured, including personal slurs, because he exercised his right to work during the strike.

Illegal Threats Follow Initial Rights Violations

After the strike ended, UFCW officials weren’t finished with Coffey. Union agents mailed him a letter, threatening to discipline him for disobeying the strike order and demanding that Coffey appear before a union kangaroo court to defend himself.

Coffey responded by filing a second unfair labor practice charge.

“Matthew Coffey endured bullying and intimidation from UFCW union bosses, simply for choosing to resign his union membership and continue to work and provide for his family,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens.

“Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story. Union boss-ordered strikes are frequently rife with intimidation and violations of workers’ rights, and the Foundation plays a major role in ensuring workers subjected to such malfeasance have a voice.”

8 Aug 2019

Supreme Court Asked to Uphold First Amendment Rights of Childcare Providers

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

High Court should strike down scheme forcing business owners under SEIU representation

Mark Mix Supreme Court Janus v AFSMCE

Citing the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME First Amendment victory, childcare provider Katherine Miller is asking the High Court to apply the same First Amendment scrutiny to forced union association.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Katherine Miller runs a small childcare business out of her home in White Salmon, Washington, providing daycare for local children. When she and other childcare providers in the state found themselves forced to associate with the radical Service Employees International Union (SEIU), they turned to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for legal assistance in defending their rights.

Miller and thousands of other Washington State childcare providers often look after children from low-income families whose childcare costs are subsidized by the Washington State government. Merely because part of her business revenue includes these subsidies, the government claims she is a “public employee” solely for the purposes of union representation. As a result, Washington granted SEIU the power to force her under their union monopoly bargaining scheme and dictate the terms of how she runs her home-based business.

Scheme’s ‘Logic’ Could Force Anybody Under Union Monopoly Representation

Faced with being forced under an SEIU monopoly against her will, Miller, along with another childcare business owner, Cindy Mentele, filed a federal lawsuit with the help of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys in 2016. Their lawsuit challenged Washington’s policy as an infringement of their First Amendment right of free association.

“If SEIU bosses and their allies in Washington’s government can coerce a woman who runs a small childcare business in her own home into associating with a union, then there is no legal limit to who can be forced to accept a government-appointed ‘representative’ to speak to and lobby the government for them,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.

After the frequently overturned Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided against her in February, Miller and her Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case. Mentele, sick of waiting for her First Amendment rights to be protected by the courts and her state government, has since stopped accepting children who are in thestate’s low-income subsidy program.

“The ugly message that the State of Washington’s current law sends is: If you want your freedom of association protected, your business will need to discriminate against children from low-income families,” added Mix.

Foundation Victories Provide Key Precedents for Protecting Free Association

The petition asks the court to hold government-mandated forced “representation” to the same standard that led the Supreme Court to find in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision that forced union fees violate the First Amendment. In that ruling, the Supreme Court also held that government-granted union monopoly bargaining power over public employees is “a significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts.”

In this case, Miller maintains that Washington’s policy breaches the First Amendment by forcing her to associate with union officials whose representation she doesn’t want and to which she didn’t consent. Miller’s argument also cites the High Court’s holding in the 2014 Harris v. Quinn case, which invalidated forced union fees for similar home-based care providers on the grounds that they are not full-fledged “public employees.”

Supreme Court Asked to Protect Freedom of Association

The petition argues that finding, in combination with the Supreme Court’s observation in Janus regarding forced association in “other contexts,” warrants Supreme Court review.

Foundation staff attorneys successfully argued and briefed both the Janus and Harris cases at the Supreme Court. In both cases the Supreme Court applied a heightened level of “exacting” First Amendment scrutiny to the government-imposed forced dues, which is what Miller asks the Court to apply in her case challenging forced association with a union.

“Based on misinterpretations of not only Janus, but also earlier Foundation-won Supreme Court precedents, courts across the country have looked the other way as union bosses and their allies in government have come up with increasingly outrageous schemes to force individuals under union monopolies against their will,” said Mix. “Forcing individuals under union boss representation against their will is at the core of all of Big Labor’s coercive powers, and it is time for the Supreme Court to step in and acknowledge that government-appointed representation is not compatible with First Amendment freedom of association.”

4 Aug 2019

Michigan Workers Halt Union Bosses’ Tactics to Undermine Right to Work

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Rather than face Foundation attorneys, union officials back down from forced-dues schemes

Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal aid in more than 100 cases in Michigan for workers like Jeffery Hauswirth as they combat forced unionism abuses.

MICHIGAN – Since the 2012 passage of Right to Work legislation in Michigan, Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal assistance to Michigan workers, challenging compulsory unionism’s abuses in more than 100 cases.

Developments in Foundation cases in recent months show that, despite dozens of victories for workers, Michigan union bosses continue attempting to cling to their forced-fees power by stifling employees’ rights.

Karen Ellis, who works at Vocational Independence Program, an adult education school in Flint, won a settlement against Teamsters Local 332 with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. She filed charges after union officials ignored her union dues deduction revocation and threatened to sue her to force her to pay union dues.

Michigan Worker Halts Union Bosses’ Threats Demanding Forced Dues

In February 2017, during a contract hiatus after Teamsters Local 332’s monopoly bargaining contract over her and her coworkers expired, Ellis hand-delivered a letter to union officials notifying them that she resigned from union membership and revoked her authorization for union dues deductions from her paycheck. She sent another letter two days later to reiterate that, and additionally notified Local 332’s international affiliate in a letter two weeks later.

Teamsters union bosses waited nine months before notifying Ellis in November 2017 that they refused to honor her revocation of dues deduction authorization. They claimed she owed union dues of nearly $300, threatening to sue if she did not pay. Union officials also filed a grievance against her employer, for honoring her revocation and stopping the deduction of dues from her paycheck.

Even after Ellis reiterated her revocation — in November 2017 and again in February 2018, during another contractual hiatus — union officials refused to honor her revocation and threatened to sue.

Ellis sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys to challenge Teamsters Local 332’s demands as a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, by blocking her from exercising her right to refrain from union membership and paying union dues.

Rather than face Foundation attorneys, Local 332 officials decided to settle. They will honor Ellis’ original dues deduction revocation submitted in 2017. Additionally, union officials will post a notice informing the school’s employees of their right to choose whether or not to join and support a union.

Ellis’ settlement is one of many, as Foundation attorneys enforce the Wolverine State’s Right to Work protections for employees.

Unfair labor practice charges brought by Foundation staff attorneys for several Michigan public school employees against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) have forced union officials to settle, halting “window period” schemes undermining Michigan’s Right to Work Law.

After Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect in 2013, public school employees Lindsey Bentley, Mary Derks, Sarah Evon, Jeffery Hauswirth, Becky Lapham, Shannon Rochon and Michael Rochon each resigned their membership in the MEA and its local affiliates.

However, union officials refused to acknowledge the resignations, citing a “window period” policy that limited members to exercising their right to resign union membership during the month of August. Union officials claimed that the workers owed membership dues until the next “window period” to resign came around in August 2014, which was for many of the workers nearly a full year after their resignation. MEA officials also threatened to use collection agencies to collect dues the union claimed to be owed.

Public School Workers Successfully Challenge ‘Window Period’ Scheme

The workers all sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who assisted them in filing unfair labor practice charges at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) against MEA and its local affiliates. Their charges were held in abeyance pending the result of another case, Snyder, in which Foundation staff attorneys provided legal aid to public school employees challenging the MEA’s “window period” policy.

The MERC ruled in Snyder that the MEA and its affiliates violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees, by illegally restricting employees’ right to resign union membership and by attempting to collect dues under the unlawful policy.

After losing to Foundation staff attorneys in court in Snyder, MEA officials decided to settle these cases. The MEA officials have acknowledged each employee’s union membership resignation, stopped demanding union dues and will refund with interest the union dues that two of the employees paid after his or her resignation. One employee will receive a refund of more than $250, while another will receive nearly $500 in back dues and interest.

“These workers bravely challenged union bosses’ attempts to bully them into paying tribute to a union against their wishes,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “These cases also show that workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly proven their willingness to violate employees’ protections under Michigan’s Right to Work Laws to keep Big Labor’s forced-dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist independent-minded workers across the state in fighting back against Big Labor’s campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”

3 Aug 2019

Union Faces Federal Prosecution for Failure to Disclose Forced-Fees Amount

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses already backed down from separate charge challenging illegal forced-fees demands

Terry Denton and her colleague brought charges against Unite Here union bosses for their illegal forced-fee demands.

PORTLAND, OR – A formal complaint has been issued in a case brought by two workers with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, to challenge union officials’ failure to disclose the amount of forced fees for union non-members.

Currently, when a private sector worker in a state that lacks Right to Work laws is forced to choose between union membership and full union fees or refraining from union membership and paying reduced forced fees, unions are not required to inform the employee of the specific amount of non-member forced fees until he or she decides to object to union membership and full union dues.

A favorable ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in this new case would mean employees will no longer have to object to full union dues without important information, as union officials would be required to provide the percentage of reduction of the lower forced fees. Additionally, even workers who do want to be union members would see how much of their dues would go to union activity, for example, how much would go to activities such as political action and lobbying.

Case Challenges NLRB Ruling Blocking Workers from Forced-Fee Information

Terry Denton and Alejandro Martinez Cuevas work for Bon Appetit at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Unite Here Local 8 union officials unionized the workplace in May 2017 via a coercive “Card Check” campaign, an abuse-prone process that circumvents an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.

Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, non-members like Denton and Cuevas can be required to pay union officials in order to work. However, under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision, workers cannot be required to fund activities unrelated to certain union activities, such as political action, lobbying or organizing.

When Denton, Cuevas and their colleagues were forced to choose between full union dues and non-member forced fees, union officials did not tell the employees the amount of the reduction in fees employees who object to paying full dues would be required to pay.

With help from Foundation staff attorneys, Denton and Cuevas filed unfair labor practice charges in August 2018 at the NLRB, stating that Unite Here Local 8 violated their rights by failing to provide employees under the monopoly bargaining contract with sufficient information to allow the workers to make an informed decision about whether to object to paying full union dues.

After NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb released a new memo on fee disclosure, the NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, consolidating Denton’s and Cuevas’ charges. Robb’s memo urged the NLRB to overturn a ruling that held unions do not have to inform a new employee of the specific amount of non-member forced fees, until the worker decides to object to union membership and full union dues.

Oregon Right to Work Law Needed to Protect Workers

Denton filed additional charges with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys in January 2019, after union officials sent bills to her and other non-members for union fees in excess of what they could lawfully charge. Union officials claimed that if the workers did not pay the bills, they could lose their jobs.

After Denton filed those charges, Unite Here Local 8 backed down from its initial demands by waiving fee payments for all non-members until November 2018. Union officials then sent out new bills reflecting the new policy and crediting payments that Denton previously made.

“Ms. Denton stood up to union bosses’ coercive attempts to take advantage of her and other employees through illegal demands on their hard-earned money,” said Ray LaJeunesse, vice president and legal director of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this shows that stronger legal protections are critical for the future of Oregon’s independent-minded workers. A clear ruling by the NLRB is needed to protect workers from Big Labor’s tactics. But, ultimately, Oregon workers need the protections of a Right to Work law to ensure that union affiliation and financial support are completely voluntary.”

2 Aug 2019

Flight Attendant’s Lawsuit Against Southwest and Union for Illegal Firing Will Continue

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Employee was fired after opposing union political activity and supporting Right to Work

Charlene Carter turned to Foundation attorneys after union bosses demanded she be fired for voicing her religious beliefs and support of the National Right to Work Act.

DALLAS, TX – Charlene Carter was forced to pay fees to the Transportation Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 union to keep her job as a Southwest flight attendant. Compelled to subsidize a union that actively promoted political issues that violated her conscience, Carter spoke out in protest of how her union fees were being spent.

Her concerns were ignored — until Carter responded to a union email by declaring her support for Right to Work. Weeks later, Carter was fired.

She sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who filed a lawsuit in 2017 challenging the firing. Southwest and TWU Local 556 moved to dismiss her claims, but a federal judge recently ordered that the lawsuit should continue.

Worker Forced to Subsidize Politically Active Union

As a Southwest Airlines employee, Carter joined TWU Local 556 in September 1996. A pro-life Christian, she resigned her membership in September 2013 after learning that her union dues were being used to promote causes that violate her conscience and beliefs.

However, she was still forced to pay fees to TWU Local 556 to keep her job. Texas Right to Work Law does not protect her from forced union fees, because airline and railway employees are covered by the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA allows union officials to have a worker fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees, but does protect the rights of employees to remain non-members of the union, to criticize the union and its leadership, and advocate in favor of changing the union’s current leadership.

Carter became a vocal supporter of a campaign to recall the TWU Local 556 Executive Board, including its president, Audrey Stone. Her pleadings describe how, in the year leading up to her lawsuit, Southwest subjected supporters of the recall campaign to disciplinary measures, including fact-findings, suspension and even termination of employment, in multiple instances at the request of TWU Local 556 members and officials.

Carter’s lawsuit states that, in contrast, when complaints were filed against the Executive Board’s supporters for their social media activity, which included allegations of death threats, threats of violence, obscene language and sexual harassment, those employees were either not disciplined or were allowed to keep their jobs.

In January 2017, Carter learned that President Stone and other TWU Local 556 officials used union dues to attend the “Women’s March on Washington D.C.,” which was sponsored by political groups she opposed, including Planned Parenthood.

Carter’s lawsuit argues that Southwest knew of the TWU Local 556 activities and participation in the Women’s March and helped accommodate TWU Local 556 members who attended the protest, by allowing them to give their work shifts to other employees not attending the protest.

Carter sent President Stone private Facebook messages, sharply criticizing the union and its support for pro-abortion activity. President Stone never responded to Carter.

Southwest Fired Worker at Union Bosses’ Behest

A month later, Carter received an email from TWU Local 556, urging her to oppose a National Right to Work Bill. Carter responded again with an email to President Stone, declaring her support for Right to Work and the Executive Board recall effort.

Days after sending Stone that email, Carter was notified by Southwest managers that they needed to have a mandatory meeting as soon as possible about “Facebook posts they had seen.” During this meeting, Southwest confronted Carter with screenshots of her pro-life posts and messages, and questioned her why she made them.

Carter explained her religious beliefs and opposition to the union’s political activities. Carter said that, by participating in the Women’s March, President Stone and TWU Local 556 members purported to be representing all Southwest flight attendants. Southwest authorities indicated that President Stone claimed to be harassed by these messages.

A week after this meeting, Southwest fired Carter, claiming she violated its “Workplace Bullying and Hazing Policy” and “Social Media Policy.” Before her termination, Carter had never received any discipline in her 20-year career with Southwest.

“I had a really hard time knowing that they went and spent our money… and when we voiced our opinion about it, we were chastised about it,” Carter said. “And for me, I was fired for it.”

Court: ‘More Than a Sheer Possibility’ of Illegal Discrimination

Carter received free legal assistance from Foundation staff attorneys to file a federal lawsuit to challenge the firing as an abuse of her rights, alleging she lost her job because she stood up to TWU Local 556 and criticized the union for its political activities and how it spent employees’ money.

Although Southwest and TWU Local 556 moved to dismiss her claims, the federal district court ruled that Carter’s allegations establish “more than a sheer possibility” that union officials retaliated against her, and that Southwest fired her for opposing union leadership and engaging in activities the RLA protects.

The Court also denied Southwest’s motion to dismiss Carter’s claim that Southwest discriminated against her religious beliefs in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, as Carter has established “more than a sheer possibility” that her religious beliefs and practices were a factor in Southwest’s decision to fire her.

Carter also claims that TWU Local 556 discriminated against her religious beliefs by complaining about her pro-life messages in order to get Southwest to fire her. Union officials did not ask the court to dismiss that claim.

“This case shows the extent to which union officials will wield their power over employers to violate the rights’ of the workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Charlene Carter merely voiced her opinion and opposition to her money being used for causes she opposes, expressing her protected religious beliefs.

“A victory for Charlene would send a message that this type of abuse of union monopoly power will not go unchallenged. Ultimately, it is up to Congress to end Big Labor’s power to force its representation on workers who oppose it and then add insult to injury by forcing workers under threat of termination to pay money to a union they oppose,” added Mix.

28 Jul 2019

Hospital Employees Fight Forced Unionization by Bureaucrat Fiat

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Workers were forced under SEIU’s ‘representation’ despite overwhelming opposition

Employees at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Schuylkill East were freed from union bosses’ scheme that forced them to subsidize the politically active SEIU.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) unanimously overturned a Regional Director’s decision that forced Pennsylvania hospital employees under the so-called “representation” of union bosses, even though the workers opposed the union and had rejected an SEIU organizing drive.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed a brief in the case for employees to support the challenge to the Regional Director’s decision.

Workers Halt Corrupt Union Power-Grab

In 2016, employees at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill East completely rejected Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials’ attempts to unionize their workplace. Union organizers did not even file a petition for an election, which required the signatures of 30% of the hospital workers.

Employees at a separate facility, Schuylkill South, had been unionized for several decades.

SEIU agreed to a plan where some Schuylkill South workers were transferred to Schuylkill East, but kept under the union’s monopoly bargaining representation. Union officials then claimed that the entire Schuylkill East workforce should be included in the monopoly bargaining unit, based in part on the presence of these unionized workers.

In October 2017, NLRB Regional Director Dennis Walsh ordered that Schuylkill East workers should be forced into the slightly larger Schuylkill South monopoly bargaining unit, citing the NLRB’s “accretion” policy that grants union officials the power to absorb workers into a larger unionized workplace without their input. The employees were never given a vote.

Walsh had previously been suspended one month without pay by the NLRB, following an investigation into his use of his position with the NLRB to solicit contributions to a pro-union scholarship fund from union officials with cases at the NLRB. Reports indicate that the SEIU was one of the unions that made payments to Walsh’s fund.

The employer challenged Walsh’s ruling at the NLRB in Washington, D.C., and successfully halted SEIU’s coercive unionization scheme.

“This ruling is a much-needed victory for workers over a shameful union power-grab aided and abetted by a demonstrably partisan Regional Director, who only a few years ago was suspended for his pro-union conduct that violated NLRB ethics rules,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite the workers in this case successfully resisting an SEIU organizing drive, union bosses attempted to game the NLRB system to force these workers into union forced-dues ranks. The unanimous Board decision overturning the Regional Director’s order is evidence of just how radical the accretion in this case was, and how the accretion doctrine undermines the premise of the National Labor Relations Act which is supposedly based on the idea that workers have a say in whether or not they are unionized.”

17 Jun 2019

Appeals Court Affirms Ruling That Union Bosses Violated Michigan’s Right to Work Law

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Ron Conwell Michigan High School Teacher

When teacher union bosses flouted Michigan’s Right to Work Law, Ron Conwell turned to Foundation staff attorneys to enforce his rights.

Teacher’s case resulted in first fine against union officials for illegal forced dues requirement

DETROIT, MI – When union bosses informed teacher Ron Conwell that he must pay union fees or lose his job, he sought free legal aid from Foundation attorneys to challenge the requirement as illegal under Michigan’s popular Right to Work protections.

Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect on March 28, 2013. Contracts or agreements entered into after the law went into effect must respect workers’ right to refrain from the payment of any union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Worker Halts Union’s Illegal Attempt to Extend Forced Fees for Teachers

The Clarkston Education Association (CEA) and Michigan Education Association (MEA) illegally extended the forced-dues clause in their monopoly bargaining agreement with Clarkston Community Schools after the Right to Work Law took effect.

In August 2015, Conwell resigned his union membership. Later that month, union officials informed him that he was still required to pay union fees or be fired.

“It seemed like to me that the union was trying to find some way to take the law that was put into place so that I had a right to decide, and then take that decision away from me,” Conwell said.

Foundation attorneys brought charges for Conwell to challenge the union bosses’ coercion.

In 2017, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) ruled that CEA and MEA violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally extending and enforcing a forced-dues clause. The Commission ordered the unions to stop threatening employees with termination based on the clause.

MERC also held that Clarkston Community Schools officials violated the law by agreeing to union officials’ demands for the illegal extension. MERC fined both the school district and the unions, making the case the first of its kind in which violators of the Right to Work law were fined.

Union lawyers appealed the ruling but were met with defeat, as the Appeals Court affirmed MERC’s ruling and fine, upholding workers’ Right to Work protections.

The victory demonstrates that the Foundation’s legal aid program remains vital to protect independent-minded workers from Big Labor’s coercive tactics.

Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012.

“Michigan workers can celebrate that the decision upholds their right to work without paying forced tribute to union bosses,” said Ray LaJeunesse, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Yet it also shows that workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly violated the state’s Right to Work laws in their efforts to keep their forced dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist dozens of independent-minded workers in resisting Big Labor’s orchestrated campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”

10 Jun 2019

Foundation Fights to Enforce Janus Victory and Halt Big Labor’s Coercive Tactics

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Foundation attorneys litigating more than 25 cases for public employees over Janus rights violations

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Right) and Chris Shelton (Left)

CWA union officials, led by top boss Chris Shelton (pictured right with self declared socialist Senator Bernie Sanders), began seizing full union membership dues from David McCutcheon’s paychecks in violation of his Janus rights.

SANTA FE, N.M. – Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that forced union fees for public sector workers are unconstitutional, much work remains before civil servants are free from union bosses’ coercion.

In the landmark victory in Janus v. AFSCME in June 2018, briefed and argued by Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court ruled that charging any government employee union fees as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The Court also affirmed that unions may only collect fees when an employee gives clear and affirmative consent.

Already, Foundation staff attorneys are litigating more than 25 lawsuits from California to New Jersey to enforce the Janus decision, and new requests from public employees for assistance in enforcing their Janus rights continue to stream in.

Civil Servants Fight Union Bosses’ ‘Window Period’ Schemes

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, union officials seek to maintain their forced-fees coffers by stifling the rights of the workers they claim to represent. Foundation attorneys have filed several class action lawsuits challenging union officials’ “window period” schemes, arbitrary windows of time limiting when employees can exercise their First Amendment right to refrain
from subsidizing a union.

Two such cases (see page 1) have already settled in favor of the workers challenging union attempts to trap them in forced dues, but in the others union bosses still refuse to back down from their coercive schemes.

In New Mexico, David McCutcheon, an IT technician at New Mexico’s Department of Information Technology, was forced to pay union fees as a nonmember before Janus. After the Foundation’s victory, McCutcheon informed Communication Workers of America (CWA) union officials that under the First Amendment they could no longer force him to financially support the union.

Instead, union officials began charging him full union membership dues without his permission. To add insult to injury, union officials told McCutcheon that he could only stop the unauthorized deductions during a two-week “window period” in December.

McCutcheon sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, who filed a class action lawsuit in federal court. The class action complaint asks that the court strike down the unconstitutional “window period” scheme, and order the union to refund the membership dues and fees seized from McCutcheon and the likely hundreds of other public employees in New Mexico who have been similarly victimized during the past three years.

In two other cases, California teachers are fighting similar “window period” schemes with free aid from Foundation attorneys. Ventura County math professor Michael McCain is challenging the American Federation of Teachers union-created fifteen day “window period” policy in a class action lawsuit.

Union officials never informed McCain of his First Amendment right to refrain from supporting a union, making it impossible for him to have waived his rights as Janus requires. After Janus, McCain resigned union membership and made it clear in a letter that he does not consent to dues deductions. His lawsuit asks that the court strike down the “window period” scheme and stop forcing dues from him and potentially hundreds of other public employees.

Los Angeles kindergarten teacher Irene Seager filed another class action lawsuit, this one against United Teachers Los Angeles to challenge a 30-day “window period” scheme. Her lawsuit also challenges a California state law which allows the union to enforce the restrictive policy.

“Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ schemes and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights,” said Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite what union bosses say, First Amendment rights cannot be limited to mere days out of the year.”

Foundation attorneys are also litigating other class action lawsuits to reclaim years’ worth of union fees seized without consent before Janus. Together, the lawsuits seek refunds totaling more than $170 million.

8 Jun 2019

SCOTUS Asked to Hear Homecare Providers’ Case Seeking Return of Seized Union Fees

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Providers fight to reclaim $32 million in union fees seized in violation of First Amendment

Susie and Libby Watts

Susie Watts, a plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court Harris decision, is a home care provider for her daughter Libby. The case continues in Riffey, as providers fight for the return of unconstitutionally seized union fees.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn case that a scheme imposed by the state of Illinois, in which over 80,000 individual home care providers were unionized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and forced to pay union fees out of the state funding they receive, violated the providers’ First Amendment rights.

The ruling should have meant that SEIU union bosses were forced to return the unconstitutionally seized union fees. Instead, five years later the providers are once again at the steps of the Supreme Court.

SEIU Union Bosses Keep Illegally Seized Union Fees

After the 2014 ruling, Harris continued as Riffey v. Rauner. The case was remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not the 80,000 providers would receive refunds of the money SEIU officials seized without consent.

In June 2016, the District Court denied a motion for class certification. The ruling allowed the SEIU to keep the over $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from homecare providers compelled into union ranks, who had not consented to their money being taken for union fees. The Appeals Court upheld the ruling.

In 2018, Foundation staff attorneys successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Appeals Court’s ruling. The High Court did so the day after it issued the landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, ordering the Appeals Court to reconsider the case in light of the Janus ruling, which struck down public sector forced union fees as violating the First Amendment.

In Janus, which was argued by the same National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who is lead counsel in the Riffey case, the Supreme Court clarified that any union fees taken without an individual’s informed consent violate the First Amendment. That standard supports the Riffey plaintiffs’ claim that all providers who had money seized without their consent are entitled to refunds.

SCOTUS Asked to Allow Providers to Reclaim Funds Seized in Violation of First Amendment

On December 6, a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court affirmed its previous ruling that no class can be certified from the over 80,000 providers whose money was seized in violation of their First Amendment rights. The panel based its decision on the ground that each individual homecare provider would have to prove that he or she objected to the taking of the fees when the seizures occurred.

After the Appeals Court denied Foundation staff attorneys’ request to rehear the case with all judges, Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, asking it to take the case.

Foundation staff attorneys point out that the Janus precedent does not require a worker to prove his or her subjective opposition to forced union fees. Rather, Janus held that the First Amendment is violated if union dues or fees are seized without the worker’s clear affirmative consent.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but the ruling challenged by this petition denies those same caregivers the opportunity to reclaim the money that never should have been taken from them by SEIU in the first place,” said Ray LaJeunesse, vice president and legal director of the National Right to Work Foundation. “If SEIU’s bosses are not required to return the money they seized in violation of homecare providers’ constitutional rights, it will only encourage similar behavior from union officials eager to trample the First Amendment to enrich themselves with the money intended for the care of individuals who need it.”

1 Jun 2019

Foundation Victory: Workers Cannot Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

NLRB also rules that union bosses must provide independent verification of forced fees audit

Former Rhode Island Nurse Jeanette Geary

Nurse Jeanette Geary challenged Big Labor’s coercive tactics after discovering that union bosses were forcing her to pay for union lobbying activities.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nine years after filing her case over forced union fees, former Rhode Island nurse Jeanette Geary finally claimed victory over union bosses’ illegal scheme.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a sweeping decision in Geary’s case, providing new protections for workers and accountability over forced fees calculations.

Nine-Year-Old Case Ends in Victory at Labor Board

Geary, then a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union in 2009 with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys.

She filed the charges after UNAP officials failed to provide an independent auditor’s verification that its breakdown of expenditures had been audited. She also challenged the union’s forcing her and other employees to pay for union lobbying activities in violation of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision.

“For someone to tell me that they’re going to take my money that I have earned working very hard, and they’re going to use it for their political purposes, you know — that makes me very, very angry,” Geary said.

When Geary discovered what was happening with the union fees she was forced to pay, it was about more than money. “I don’t like to be manipulated because I am a nurse. Just because I nurse and you turn your light on and I’ll be there and I’ll do anything that you need to promote your well-being, that doesn’t mean you can step on me. It was a deep-down, personal, gut reaction to [the union officials] who decided not only would they label me as ignorant and stupid and laugh about me in their office, but they would also take my money.”

The Obama NLRB had issued a bad decision in Geary’s case in 2012, but the ruling was invalidated by the Supreme Court’s 2014 holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning. The Supreme Court agreed with the Foundation’s amicus brief that the Board lacked a valid quorum because of three unconstitutional “recess appointments” then President Obama made.

Five years later, Geary’s case was the only remaining case invalidated by Noel Canning that was still pending without a decision by the NLRB.

Workers Can No Longer Be Forced to Pay for Union Lobbying

In January 2019, Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeking a court order that the NLRB promptly decide Geary’s case. The Appeals Court then ordered the NLRB to respond to the mandamus petition by March 4, which caused the NLRB to issue its decision on March 1, just ahead of the deadline.

The NLRB’s 3-1 decision held that union officials violate workers’ rights by forcing non-members to fund union lobbying activities. It also ruled that union officials must provide independent verification that the union expenses they charge to non-members have been audited.

“Jeanette Geary bravely fought against Big Labor’s workplace coercion for years, resisting a blatant refusal to respect her rights and those of the workers union officials claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “Although this is an overdue victory for Jeanette Geary, ultimately these types of forced union abuses will never be eliminated until Big Labor’s power to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment is completely eliminated.”