3 Jul 2020

Military Base Employee Charges Union Bosses with Religious Discrimination

Union officials interrogated employee about her beliefs instead of providing federally-mandated exemption

Dorothy Frame J&J Worldwide Service Employee

Dorothy Frame opposes funding the LIUNA union due to its stance on abortion. Instead of providing her an accommodation, union bosses questioned her religious beliefs.

CLARKSVILLE, TN – Dorothy Frame, a J&J Worldwide Service Employee, works at Fort Campbell, a military installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. In July 2019, she sent Laborers Local Union 576 (LIUNA) bosses at her workplace a letter requesting a “religious accommodation of her objection to joining or financially supporting the union.”

In her letter requesting the exemption in accordance with federal law regarding workplace discrimination, Frame explained that, as a Catholic, she opposes the union’s stance on abortion. Instead of providing her with an accommodation in accordance with federal law, LIUNA bosses rejected her request and demanded in a letter the following month that she “provide a theological defense.”

Now, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, she has filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on the grounds that LIUNA officials illegally discriminated against her because of her religious beliefs.

EEOC Asked to Investigate Union Boss Religious Discrimination

Frame’s charge notes that under her Catholic faith she believes abortion is “the unjustified destruction of a human life,” a belief that is rooted in “her understanding of Catholic teaching, scripture, and God’s will.” Because of those sincere beliefs and her knowledge that the union “funds and supports abortion,” her charge states that for her “it would be sinful to join or financially support the union.”

Frame had been a LIUNA member for four years before requesting an accommodation. According to the charge, she converted to Catholicism in 2017 and discovered the conflict between her sincerely held religious beliefs and union officials’ position on abortion “shortly before she wrote her accommodation request.”

Although Kentucky and Tennessee both have Right to Work laws which ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, Fort Campbell’s status as an “exclusive federal enclave” overrides those state laws. Thus, the monopoly bargaining contract between J&J Worldwide Service and the LIUNA union requires Frame to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Union Boss Questions Priest’s Letter Supporting Religious Accommodation Request

LIUNA bosses rebuffed Frame’s request in August 2019, sending her a letter in which a union lawyer told Frame she would need to “provide a theological defense” of her beliefs to meet LIUNA union officials’ supposed standard for a “legitimate justification” for her accommodation request. Frame then provided a letter from her parish priest supporting her religious opposition to abortion, but, according to her charge, “the Union lawyer rejected this evidence based on his supposedly superior religious views.”

Frame’s Foundation-provided attorney also provided evidence to LIUNA officials that abortion violates the teachings of the Catholic Church. But her charge notes that union officials never responded to this additional evidence and continued to take money from her paycheck in violation of her sincere religious beliefs. Her charge alleges this violates her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against an individual based on his or her religious beliefs. If the EEOC finds merit in her charges, Frame could be given a “right to sue” letter, which authorizes her to file a federal lawsuit against LIUNA officials to vindicate her rights.

Foundation staff attorneys regularly aid workers who have a religious objection to supporting a labor union. They recently helped Boston College electrician Ardeshir Ansari secure such an accommodation from his employer and the union, Service Employees’ International Union 32BJ.

“It is outrageous that LIUNA bosses are forcing Ms. Frame to choose between keeping her job and violating her sincere religious beliefs,” commented Raymond LaJeunesse, Vice President and Legal Director of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Although such religious discrimination is a blatant violation of federal law, union boss demands in this case serve as a reminder why no worker in America should be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose, no matter whether their opposition is religious-based or for any other reason.”

13 Jun 2020

Rhode Island Officers Win Over $110,000 in Lawsuits Ending Forced-Dues Scheme

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Foundation-won settlements also reinstate officers fired after challenging outrageous dues deductions

IBPO union bosses and Town of Westerly officials thought they could get away with seizing $5 per hour illegally from five non-union officers. As the result of Foundation-won settlements, all five officers have now had their rights vindicated.

WESTERLY, RI – Reserve Officers Scott Ferrigno, Darrell Koza, Raymond Morrone, Anthony Falcone and Thomas Cimalore have won favorable settlements in their cases challenging a forced union dues scheme between International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) Local 503 union bosses and Town of Westerly officials. The officers also won favorable settlements for retaliation claims they brought after publicly challenging the unlawful arrangement.

The lawsuits were filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Rhode Island-based Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights. Under the settlements, IBPO and the Town of Westerly agreed to pay almost $65,000 in refunds of union fees seized from the officers through the illegal scheme and compensation for the officers’ other claims. Officers Koza and Ferrigno will also be reinstated as police officers and receive nearly $48,000 in back pay from the Town for the period after they were terminated.

“The Foundation is proud to stand with Officers Ferrigno, Koza, Morrone, Falcone, Cimalore, and all public servants who are targeted with intimidation, misinformation, threats of firing, and other illegal tactics simply to keep dues money flowing into the bank accounts of self-interested union officials,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix.

According to the lawsuits, IBPO bosses and the Town of Westerly began seizing $5 per hour from each of the five officers’ hourly pay without authorization in April 2014. IBPO and the Town perpetrated this scheme against the officers even though they were classified as “nonpermanent police officers” outside the so-called “representation” of union bosses.

Lawsuit: IBPO Union Bosses and Town Officials Violated First Amendment Rights

Over the next six months, in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal fees in this “backroom deal,” the officers repeatedly sought meetings with Town officials, including the Town of Westerly’s payroll department, the Westerly Chief of Police, the Town Manager and the Town Council, only to be rebuffed. According to the lawsuit, the Chief of Police warned the officers they could be “easily replaced” if they sought publicity for their cause.

The Reserve Officers finally managed to present their objections to the Town Council, but it refused to stop the compulsory fees. On October 20, 2014, within a week of hearing that the Reserve Officers arranged a meeting with the Town Council to argue their objections to the forced-fee scheme, the chief emailed the Town Manager informing her of his plan to terminate Koza and downgrade reserve officers’ priority level for taking on new traffic detail assignments. The five officers contended that this limited the hours they could work and the pay they could earn.

Town Official Assumed Officers Wouldn’t Have Money to Pursue Cases

Records disclosed during the litigation revealed that during a November 2014 meeting between the Town Council and other town and union officials to discuss the potential of litigation in this situation, one official opined, “It’s going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars . . . They’d have to take this money out of their pockets. I don’t think [their attorney] is going to represent them for free.” Another official at the time asserted, “If we say no, they’re probably going to back down.” When the officials considered whether the Reserve Officers would keep working for the Town, one council member commented, “They can always go to McDonald’s.”

In December 2014, the Town fired Koza, who had never been disciplined by the Town before these events. According to Koza’s lawsuit, the Town attempted to justify his termination on the grounds that he had not immediately left his position directing traffic in a busy intersection to move his police cruiser for an officer attempting to drive through a restricted lane. The Town also cited Koza’s calling himself a “police officer” rather than a “reserve police officer” in his application for a handgun carry permit. Koza’s lawsuit points out that the Town’s charter then gave “nonpermanent police officers” like Koza the powers of regular police officers while on duty, and all of Koza’s references in his application called him a “reserve officer,” “reserve police officer,” and “reserve officer with the Westerly Police Department.”

The Town fired Ferrigno in May 2016. According to Ferrigno’s lawsuit, the Town alleged that he left a bicycle race detail assignment early. But Ferrigno contended that he actually stayed five minutes later than he was instructed to by his supervisor while waiting for his replacement to arrive. As further evidence that his firing was unconstitutional retaliation, Ferrigno’s lawsuit also noted that the officer who arrived late to relieve him was a union official, who was never even disciplined for his lateness.

The five filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, arguing that IBPO and Town of Westerly officials had violated their First Amendment rights by forcing them to financially support the union when they were outside its contract. The officers’ lawsuit also alleged that Town officials seized union dues without their individual written authorization in violation of Rhode Island’s wage deduction laws. The lawsuit additionally charged that the town retaliated against them when they spoke out publicly about the malfeasance.

Reserve Officers Win Refunds of Seized Dues and Reinstatement

Officers Koza and Ferrigno filed their own complaints in the same court, charging the Town with firing them for exercising their First Amendment rights. All the lawsuits also sought punitive damages. Ultimately, rather than face the officers and their attorneys at trial, Town and Union officials agreed to settle the cases. The settlements order union officials to compensate the officers almost $20,000 and Town officials to pay $45,000 for dues that were seized illegally under the “$5 per hour” policy and for other damages and claims. The settlements in Koza’s and Ferrigno’s cases, on top of requiring the Town to reinstate the two officers and pay back wages, require that all references related to the discipline forming the basis of their lawsuits be removed from their personnel records.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island later entered a consent judgment in the case which forbids IBPO Local 503 from forcing any constable or reserve officer to pay union dues or fees without his or her affirmative consent.

“The Town and the IBPO could have avoided the years and expense of litigation if they had only listened in 2014 when we first tried to tell them that they cannot just take $5 per hour from our pay and give it to the Union without our permission,” Officer Cimalore said. “After unsuccessfully trying more than a year to resolve the matter, we were forced to go to federal court.”

9 Jun 2020

Foundation Asks Supreme Court to Hear Janus Case Again, Seeking Return of Forced Fees

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Case could set precedent for hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds to Big Labor’s victims

Mark Janus’ second Foundation-backed appeal to the Supreme Court landed the top spot on Fox News’ website. If Janus prevails again, hundreds of millions of dollars in unconstitutional union dues could be returned to public sector employees.

WASHINGTON, DC – Mark Janus is returning to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time asking the Justices to hear the continuation of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. Janus seeks repayment of the thousands of dollars in fees the union took from his paycheck in violation of his First Amendment rights. Another Supreme Court victory for Janus could set a precedent resulting in the return of hundreds of millions of dollars seized by union officials in violation of workers’ constitutional rights.

The original Janus v. AFSCME was argued successfully before the Supreme Court by veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger. In a landmark victory, the Court sided with Janus on June 27, 2018, and declared it illegal to force public employees to subsidize a union as a condition of employment. The Court recognized that compelling public workers to pay fees to a union violates their First Amendment rights.

Illinois Child Support Public Servant Intervenes in Lawsuit with Foundation Aid

As a result of Janus, more than five million public sector employees across the country are no longer required to pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs. However, Janus’ case continues as he seeks the return of the fees that AFSCME seized from his paycheck without his permission from June 27, 2018, to  March 23, 2013, representing the two-year statute of limitations from the date his case started in March 2015 through the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in his favor.

The Janus case began in February 2015, when then-newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from requiring employees who had abstained from formal union membership to pay union fees, based on a Right to Work Foundation U.S. Supreme Court victory in 2014 in another Illinois case. Rauner also filed a federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that forced union fees violate the First Amendment rights of public workers.

Staff attorneys from the Foundation, in partnership with the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center, filed a motion for Mark Janus and two other plaintiffs to intervene in the case in March 2015, and have represented Janus ever since. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted Janus’ motion to file a complaint in intervention, which allowed the suit to move forward even after the court ruled that Rauner lacked standing to pursue the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court permitted union bosses to impose forced union fees on public workers in the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. However, before the Janus victory, Foundation staff attorneys secured several victories for workers which called the constitutionality of forced fees into question. In 2012, the court ruled in Knox v. SEIU that union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers’ forced union fees for special assessments or risk infringing on their First Amendment rights. In 2014, the court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that requiring home healthcare providers who receive a subsidy from the government to pay union dues is a First Amendment violation.

Following Janus’ groundbreaking win at the Supreme Court in June 2018, Foundation attorneys continued his case in Illinois federal courts, arguing that the Supreme Court’s ruling is retroactive and that AFSCME should be required to return dues they seized unconstitutionally before the decision. In this and similar cases, union bosses have made a so-called “good faith” argument to defend their seizing of dues before Janus was issued. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in 2019 that AFSCME could keep the unconstitutional dues, prompting Janus’ petition to the Supreme Court.

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Potentially At Stake

“The Supreme Court agreed that the union taking money from non-members was wrong but the union still has the money it illegally garnished from my paycheck,” commented Janus. “It’s time for AFSCME to give me back the money they wrongfully took.”

Foundation staff attorneys are currently fighting for thousands of workers in about 20 cases which seek refunds of dues seized unconstitutionally before Janus was decided. While Janus is seeking the return of $3,000 of his own money, a favorable decision for him would set a precedent that could result in the return of over $120 million to public servants just in Foundation-backed cases. Other cases brought by workers could bring that total to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Workers Already Winning Refunds of Illegal Dues with Foundation Legal Aid

“The Supreme Court has already sided with the Foundation arguments for Mark Janus and ruled that forcing public employees to fund union activities violates the First Amendment,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “The Supreme Court should take this case again to ensure that public sector union bosses are not permitted to profit from their widespread violation of workers’ First Amendment rights.”

Foundation staff attorneys in July 2018 secured the nation’s first-ever refund of dues seized unconstitutionally before Janus for Debora Nearman, an Oregon state wildlife employee. SEIU bosses were forced to settle and give back to Nearman over $3,000 in illegal fees they had seized from her over two years, during which they had sponsored an aggressive political campaign against her own husband, who ran successfully for the Oregon Legislature in 2016.

31 May 2020

San Diego Charter School Teachers Demand Election to Oust Union Bosses

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses attempt to block educators from voting to escape controversial union

Dr. Kristie Chiscano

Dr. Kristie Chiscano, chemistry teacher at GPA, spearheaded the effort for a vote to remove SDEA union bosses from the school. Despite having the signatures of more than enough teachers, union bosses are trying to block the vote.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Teachers at San Diego’s Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA) have collected enough signatures to trigger a vote to remove the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union from monopoly bargaining power at the school.

Dr. Kristie Chiscano, a chemistry teacher at the charter school, submitted the decertification petition at the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. However, rather than allow the teachers to vote in a secret ballot election whether to remove the union, SDEA bosses have filed “blocking charges” at the PERB in an attempt to block the election.

Teachers and Parents Oppose Union Power Grab at School

Controversy has surrounded the SDEA’s presence at GPA, as the union installed itself in January 2019 after conducting a “Card Check” drive. In the abuse-prone “Card Check” process, union organizers bypass a secret-ballot election and instead rely on a variety of pressure tactics to get employees to sign union cards that are later counted as “votes” for unionization.

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. Specifically, many in the community felt the old regime was failing to combat gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.

Since the school’s unionization without a secret ballot vote in January 2019, no monopoly bargaining contract has been approved. All the while, GPA parents and educators have accused SDEA 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.

“It all changed once the union started,” GPA parent Theressah Rodriguez told the San Diego Union-Tribune about the union in January. “Now, whenever you come in, you feel the hostility.”

Foundation Aids Educators in Filing Popular Petition to Remove Union

Dr. Chiscano, who teaches chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students, began circulating the decertification petition last October. 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. The petition was filed with PERB immediately following the one-year anniversary of the union’s installation, the soonest she could file the petition under California law.

However, last December, union officials preemptively filed a charge at PERB 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 “blocking charges” are a tactic union lawyers frequently use to block rank-and-file employees from holding secret-ballot elections that could result in the removal of union officials from power as the employees’ designated monopoly representative.

With an impending legal battle over the union’s attempt to block her decertification petition, Dr. Chiscano turned to the National Right to Work Foundation to challenge this attempt by union officials to stymie her and her coworkers’ right to hold a decertification vote to oust a union they believe lacks the support of a majority of the school’s educators.

“Rather than face a secretballot vote of the rank-and-file educators they claim to represent, SDEA union bosses are resorting to legal trickery to trap teachers in a union they oppose by blocking their right to hold a decertification election,” observed National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “By using these coercive tactics to attempt to trap teachers in union ranks, SDEA union officials do wrong by GPA’s namesake, AFL-CIO union founder Samuel Gompers, who himself urged devotion to ‘the principles of voluntarism’ and reminded all American workers that ‘no lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.’”

31 May 2020

Foundation Aids Workers Nationwide in Cases to Vindicate Janus Rights

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Workers seek rulings ordering union bosses to refund dues taken in violation of landmark decision

Connecticut public employees Kiernan Wholean (left) and James Grillo are fighting SEIU bosses at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, demanding years of dues seized in violation of their Janus rights.

NEW YORK, NY – The Foundation’s victory at the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME set a groundbreaking precedent. The High Court finally recognized that requiring public sector workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights, and that “affirmative and knowing” consent is required before deducting dues from any employee.

But union bosses from AFSCME and other public sector unions still refuse to relinquish dues money that they seized from employee paychecks without their consent before the Janus decision came down. While Mark Janus continues his case  to get back seized dues, Foundation staff attorneys are also arguing in federal Courts of Appeals for other public servants from Connecticut and New Hampshire seeking the return of dues seized from thousands of workers in violation of the Janus precedent.

Connecticut, New Hampshire Public Workers Demand Refunds for Thousands

At the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) employees Kiernan Wholean and James Grillo seek a ruling that will make Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2001 bosses give back at least two years’ worth of fees exacted from their paychecks in violation of Janus, plus interest. Because their lawsuit is a class action, a favorable ruling could result in refunds for hundreds of Connecticut public employees.

At the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Foundation staff attorneys are litigating another class action lawsuit for New Hampshire public employees Patrick Doughty and Randy Severance. Doughty and Severance are asking the court to make New Hampshire SEIU bosses return three years of unconstitutionally seized fees, as permitted by the statute of limitations.

All four employees are not members of their respective SEIU local unions. In these and similar cases, union bosses have used a dubious “good faith” argument to defend their seizing of dues before Janus came down. Foundation staff attorney Jeffrey Jennings points out in his argument for Wholean and Grillo that, on top of the Janus ruling making those deductions illegal, union bosses certainly have “no reasonable grounds for believing [they] could keep their money” after the Janus decision.

In Connecticut, Foundation staff attorneys in 2019 successfully secured a refund of dues seized before Janus for UConn accounting professor Steven Utke, whom American Association of University Professors (AAUP) bosses targeted with illegal dues deductions since he was hired in 2015. When AAUP officials chose to settle the case in 2019 after Foundation staff attorneys filed a lawsuit, Utke received back over $5,000 in refunds.

“The Supreme Court was crystal clear in Janus:  All union fees seized from a public worker without his or her consent violate the First Amendment,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Despite that clarity, union hierarchies around the country are still flush with dues money that was seized in violation of public employees’ First Amendment rights.”

Since the Janus decision in 2018, Foundation attorneys have litigated more than 30 cases seeking to enforce and expand the Janus victory. Ten of those have already resulted in refunds of seized dues for employees, including Oregon wildlife employee Debora Nearman’s case, the first case in the nation to result in a refund of dues seized in violation of the Janus precedent. SEIU bosses were forced to settle and give back to Nearman nearly $3,000 in illegal fees they had seized from her over two years, during which they sponsored an aggressive political campaign against Nearman’s own husband, who ran successfully for the Oregon Legislature in 2016.

30 May 2020

NLRB Cases Challenge Coercive ‘Neutrality Agreements’ Used to Impose Forced Unionism

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Housekeepers demand NLRB block unionization resulting from back-room “Card Check” deals

From left, housekeepers Lady Laura Javier, Cindy J. Alarcon Vasquez, and Yesica Perez Barrios are charging hotel officials and union bosses with illegally corralling workers into union ranks with a corrupted “Card Check” recognition.

SEATTLE, WA – Housekeeper Gladys Bryant was granted an appeal by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in her case challenging the use of a so-called “neutrality agreement” between UNITE HERE union officials and her employer to impose a union on the hotel’s workers.

Meanwhile, four Boston housekeepers have filed similar NLRB charges against their employer Yotel Boston and UNITE HERE Local 26, alleging that union officials violated federal law by imposing union representation on workers through a coercive “Card Check” drive with their employer’s assistance.

General Counsel Finds That UNITE HERE “Card Check” Unionization Was Tainted

Bryant filed the unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE Local 8 union was installed at the Embassy Suites hotel in May 2018 through an oft-abused “Card Check” drive which bypassed the NLRB’s secret ballot election process.

As part of its so-called “neutrality agreement,”  Embassy Suites agreed to give union organizers access to the hotel to meet and solicit employees. The agreement also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from employees.

After NLRB Region 19 officials declined to prosecute the union or employer for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Bryant appealed the case to the NLRB General Counsel in January 2019. The NLRB General Counsel agreed with Bryant’s Foundation attorneys that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid” and thus violated the NLRA.

The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Bryant’s appeal successfully argued that the “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers.

Boston Housekeepers Argue Union “Card Check” Must Be Overturned

Faced with a similar situation, Boston-area housekeepers Cindy J. Alarcon Vasquez, Lady Laura Javier, Yesica Perez Barrios, and Danela Guzman filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, the housekeepers argue that UNITE HERE union officials violated federal law by imposing union representation on workers through a coercive “Card Check” drive with the assistance of their employer, Yotel Boston.

As in the Seattle case, they charge that Yotel Boston company officials provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid” and therefore illegally tainted the union’s installation as the employees’ exclusive representative in the workplace. The housekeepers charge union officials with violating the NLRA by requesting and accepting the illegal assistance, and the hotel for providing it.

“It is long past time that the NLRB put an end to this biased double standard that allows union bosses to abuse workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “The General Counsel is correct to finally recognize that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”

“These cases represent another breakthrough in the Foundation’s challenges to the pro-forced unionism skew at the NLRB,” added LaJeunesse.

29 May 2020

Michigan Nurse Sues Teamsters for Violating 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 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Lawsuit: Union bosses illegally ignored repeated requests to stop union dues deductions

Since former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed Right to Work into law, Foundation staff attorneys have filed well over 100 cases for workers fighting forced unionism in the state.

FLINT, MI – Madrina Wells, a nurse at the Genesys Regional Medical Center, first tried to exercise her right to end all union dues deductions from her paycheck in December 2018, in accordance with Michigan’s Right to Work Law.

But, for well over a year now, the Teamsters union bosses at her workplace have continuously violated that right and kept requiring her to pay union fees. Finally, in December, she filed a lawsuit against them with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Teamsters Officials Ignored Six Attempts by Nurse to Exercise Rights

According to the complaint filed in Genesee County Circuit Court, Wells resigned her union membership in February 2018 and requested that Teamsters officials cease all dues deductions from her paycheck in December of the same year.

Notwithstanding her request, Teamsters bosses sent her a letter in January 2019 demanding that she pay them non-member forced fees after she returned from a stint on medical leave, which she had begun in December 2018.

Though a reduced amount of union dues can be charged to private sector employees who abstain from formal union membership in non-Right to Work states, in Right to Work states like Michigan no public or private sector employee is required to pay any amount of union fees as a condition of employment.

Wells resumed work in July 2019, and sent a letter to Teamsters officials “renewing her objection” to tendering any dues or fees whatsoever to the Teamsters hierarchy. Teamsters bosses again rebuffed her request and subsequently demanded forced fees from Wells for July through December of 2019, all in clear violation of her rights.

Wells responded to each demand by reiterating her objection to the illegal fees, but submitted the fees demanded by Teamsters bosses under protest. Even so, Genesys Regional Medical Center not only deducted the Teamsters’ so-called “agency fee” from Wells’ paycheck in August 2019, but also seized the full amount of union dues from her paycheck in October.

Scores of Workers Turn to Foundation After Right to Work Enacted

Since Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect in 2013, Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal aid to Wolverine State workers in over 120 cases.

In 2018, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for Port Huronarea public school employees Tammy Williams and Linda Gervais, ending dues demands made by the Michigan Education Association union (MEA) in violation of the Right to Work law. To date, as a result of that settlement, over 20 Wolverine State teachers have been freed from illegal dues demands.

“Once again Michigan union bosses have been caught shamelessly violating the Wolverine State’s Right to Work law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “Foundation staff attorneys will continue the fight until all Michigan workers can freely exercise their right not to fund unions they fundamentally disagree with.”

27 May 2020

Foundation Urges NLRB to Kill Policies Used to Trap Workers

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. In April 2020, the NLRB announced that it would effectively eliminate the “blocking charge” and “voluntary recognition bar” policies. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Comments: End arbitrary restrictions on employee votes to remove unwanted unions

Free at last: Lead petitioner Liz Chase (front, left) and her fellow Alaska bus drivers hold up “no-union” buttons after finally ousting an unpopular Teamsters union from  their workplace. Union bosses trapped them in union ranks for years.

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January, urging it to issue a final rule to eliminate arbitrary policies that union officials frequently manipulate to trap workers in union ranks.

The three policies at issue in the NLRB’s rulemaking are not mandated or even mentioned by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that the NLRB is charged with enforcing. These policies were created by rulings of past Big Labor-friendly Boards. The comments approve of the Trump NLRB’s plan to alter all three policies, but advocate the Board go even further to protect independent-minded workers in how it deals with so-called “blocking charges.”

“Delays in the rulemaking process this Board has used to address these coercive policies means workers across the country continue to be trapped in unions they oppose,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix observed. “Which is why the NLRB should now swiftly finalize these rules as the Foundation’s comments advocate.”

The NLRB’s “blocking charge” policy lets union bosses file often baseless unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against an employer to halt employee votes to decertify unions. These charges regularly block votes even if the allegations against the employer have no connection to the decertification effort.

Foundation: Stop Letting Union Bosses Block Votes to Remove Unwanted Unions

The agency plans to eliminate that policy and replace it with one that lets decertification elections proceed while such charges are pending, but requires the results of the vote to be withheld until those charges are resolved.

Instead, the Foundation urges the Board to release vote tallies first to “decrease litigation and give parties greater information on whether to settle” unfair labor practice charge allegations unlikely to impact the election’s outcome. This would help prevent attempts by union bosses to drag out the ULP process and keep workers trapped in forced-dues paying ranks.

Foundation staff attorneys have provided legal assistance to scores of workers faced with “blocking charges,” including recently a group of Alaskan bus drivers who were finally freed in December 2019 from an unpopular Teamsters union after three years of attempts to remove it. One employee in that situation, Don Johnson (pictured front, right), commented to the NLRB that Teamsters officials’ continued blocking of an election was “the most unfair and anti-democratic event” with which he had ever been involved.

The Foundation’s comments also support the NLRB’s move to modify the so-called “voluntary recognition bar.”

Comments: Put a Check on “Card Check” and Other Coercive Schemes

This reform will allow employees and rival unions to file for secretballot votes after unions have been installed in workplaces through abuse-prone “Card Check” drives, which bypass the NLRB-supervised election process.

The NLRB would reinstate a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp NLRB decision. Although thousands of workers used the process to secure secret ballot votes after being unionized through card checks, the Obama NLRB overturned Dana in 2010.

The Foundation’s comments also support the agency’s proposed rule to crack down on schemes in the construction industry where employers and union bosses are allowed to 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 case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled for the worker, who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.

Foundation Supporters Flood NLRB with Comments Supporting Rule Changes

The Foundation has long called for the NLRB to abandon all barriers to employee decertification of unions not required or mentioned in the text of the NLRA. In reply comments filed later with the NLRB, Foundation staff attorneys made this point, and also supported comments made by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb calling for expanded protections for workers unionized through coercive “Card Check” drives.

In addition to the Foundation’s detailed legal arguments, the Foundation used its email list to rally thousands of supporters to sign petitions to the Board in favor of eliminating the non-statutory policies that union bosses rely on to trap workers in forced unionism ranks against their will. All told, more than 18,000 petitions were submitted, asking the Board to “immediately implement the rule changes as detailed in the National Right to Work Foundation’s comments.”

The NLRB is expected to issue the final rule in the coming months.

25 May 2020
31 Mar 2020

Rehearing in Continuation of Landmark Janus Case

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, January/February 2020 edition. Foundation staff attorneys are currently asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the continuation of Mark Janus’ case. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses refuse to return dues seized in violation of First Amendment

A favorable decision for Mark Janus at the Seventh Circuit could be the next step toward public employees getting back millions of dollars that were seized from them by union bosses in violation of their First Amendment rights.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mark Janus won a landmark victory for American workers in 2018 when the Supreme Court acknowledged in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 that requiring public sector workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment infringed their First Amendment rights.

However, the coffers of the AFSCME union bosses who once had monopoly bargaining power over Janus — and the coffers of countless other unions around the country — are still flush with dues money that was seized from employees without their “affirmative and knowing” consent as the decision requires.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys who represent Janus, along with attorneys from the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center, have filed a petition to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing en banc in the continuation of his case. Janus seeks a ruling that will make AFSCME union officials return thousands of dollars in dues that were taken from his paycheck in violation of Janus since March 23, 2013. If the rehearing is granted, Janus’ case will be heard before 12 judges of the Seventh Circuit.

A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit refused to remedy AFSCME bosses’ unconstitutional conduct last November despite the High Court’s noting in Janus that union officials have been “on notice” for years that mandatory fees likely would not comply with the heightened level of First Amendment scrutiny articulated in the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court decision, also won by Foundation staff attorneys.

“Mark Janus is simply asking the Seventh Circuit to remedy the years of unconstitutional conduct AFSCME bosses have perpetrated at his and other public sector workers’ expense,” observed National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens.

At stake for Mark Janus is over $3,000 of his money that was seized by union officials in violation of his First Amendment rights. But a ruling in his favor could have a nationwide impact, setting a federal precedent that would be cited in dozens of other cases seeking refunds of dues taken unlawfully by public sector union bosses. Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 Janus-related cases that collectively seek more than $120 million in refunds.