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.”

17 May 2019

MA Supreme Court Hears Educators’ Challenge to Teacher Union’s Coercive Power

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.

Union scheme violates teachers’ rights by blocking non-members’ voice and vote in workplace conditions

Bruce N. Cameron

Veteran Foundation attorney Bruce N. Cameron argued at the Massachusetts Supreme Court on behalf of four educators challenging coercion from union bosses to join and support a union.

BOSTON, MA – Union officials offered four Massachusetts educators a “choice”: support union partisan politics or lose any voice and vote in their workplace conditions.

Instead of waiving their First Amendment right to refrain from supporting the union, the educators sought free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation to challenge union bosses’ coercion in court.

Earlier this year, veteran Foundation staff attorney Bruce N. Cameron delivered arguments at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, challenging as unconstitutional the state law that grants union officials the power of monopoly bargaining privileges which the union uses to compel support for partisan politics.

Forced Unionism: ‘Not What America Is About’

The four plaintiffs have exercised their right to refrain from union membership. Plaintiff Dr. Ben Branch is a finance professor. His colleague and fellow plaintiff, Dr. Curtiss Conner, is a chemistry professor, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.

Melcuk compared his experience with the union with growing up in the Soviet Union, and noted that the expectation to “pick up the sign and march in step” with the union’s representation and political ideology was eerily similar.

“That’s creepy,” he said. “That is not what America is about.”

Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools. The union officials who claim to “represent” her attempted to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and pushed to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.

The educators argue that Massachusetts state law violates their First Amendment rights by granting union officials monopoly bargaining privileges, which are then used to gag non-members from having a voice and a vote in their working conditions.

Educators Ask Court to Declare Union’s Coercive Power Unconstitutional

In the June 2018 Janus victory, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that forcing any public sector employee to pay union dues or fees violates the First Amendment. The educators’ case points out that denying workers a voice in their workplace, unless they are union members, is another form of compulsion to support a union, and should be ruled a violation of the First Amendment.

“I would like everybody’s First Amendment rights to be protected against what I view as this intrusion on their right to free speech,” said Branch. “They’re trying to speak for me and they’re not speaking for me.”

“These are dedicated educators who are being forced to choose between losing their voice in the workplace or paying tribute to union bosses who clearly do not have their best interests in mind,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Although the Foundation-won Janus decision upheld public sector workers’ First Amendment right to choose whether or not to pay union fees, union officials still seek to twist workers’ arms into funding Big Labor’s coffers. A clear ruling is needed to uphold these educators’ right to refrain from union membership without fear of retaliation or coercion.”

8 May 2019

Janus Victory Opens Door for Lawsuits Seeking Millions in Forced-Dues Refunds

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2018 edition.

Foundation staff attorneys assist public-sector employees in halting ‘opt-out’ schemes across the country

Mark Mix Interview with Fox News after Janus

The Foundation’s Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME opened the door for several Foundation-litigated lawsuits seeking the return of union fees unconstitutionally seized from public sector workers.

WASHINGTON, DC – For years, union officials have been denying employee’s rights by using “opt-out” schemes, in which employees must take steps simply to refrain from paying for union activity they cannot legally be required to fund.

However, in the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision that freed public sector workers from compulsory dues, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that charging union fees is a violation of the First Amendment “unless employees clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them.”

That affirmation of workers’ rights has opened the door for thousands of employees to hold union officials’ accountable for coercive “opt-out” schemes, in which officials had required employees to take steps simply to protect their First Amendment rights.

SCOTUS Overturns Lower Court Decision Denying Providers Refunds

The Foundation is providing free legal representation to government employees across the country in numerous cases seeking the return of fees seized without consent by union officials.

A group of Illinois home care providers is seeking the return of $32 million in union fees seized in a coercive scheme by SEIU officials. With free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, the providers took their case, Riffey v. Rauner, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Riffey v. Rauner is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. In Harris, the Court ruled that a forced-dues scheme imposed by the state of Illinois, in which over 80,000 individual home care providers in Illinois were unionized and required to pay union fees, violated the First Amendment.

After the Supreme Court decision, the case was re-designated as Riffey v. Rauner and remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not tens of thousands of providers who had never joined the union would receive refunds of the money SEIU officials seized without consent.

However, in June 2016, the District Court ruled that the SEIU did not have to repay the funds, despite the Supreme Court ruling declaring the scheme unconstitutional. Foundation staff attorneys appealed the case to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the District Court’s ruling that, even though the workers never consented to their money being taken, they did not suffer First Amendment injury.

Earlier this year, Foundation staff attorneys asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and hear the case to clarify that taking fees from nonmembers without consent violates the First Amendment.

The day after Janus, the Court granted certiorari in Riffey, vacated the lower court’s ruling, and remanded the case to be reconsidered in light of the new protections against “opt-out” schemes.

“With the Supreme Court remanding Riffey, we are one step closer toward indicating the rights of the tens of thousands of victims, many of whom are family members
caring for disabled children in their own homes,” said Foundation President Mark Mix.

“Now, with the new protections for workers afforded by our landmark Janus v. AFSCME victory, it is critical to confirm that unions cannot require individuals to ‘opt out’ of union dues that they cannot be required to pay in the first place,” continued Mix. “Union officials are still using such ‘opt-out’ schemes nationwide to limit workers’ constitutional protections despite Janus’ clear ruling that those schemes are impermissible. Ultimately, the clear ruling by the Supreme Court on this issue must be enforced in the lower courts to ensure that individuals who never joined a union cannot be required to take affirmative steps simply to protect their First Amendment rights.”

California Class Action Lawsuit Could Return Over $100 Million in Seized Dues

Foundation attorneys are also seeking to halt an “opt-out” scheme in which SEIU officials seized millions of dollars in forced dues from thousands of California state employees.

The workers are challenging SEIU Local 1000 officials’ “opt-out” policy that required workers to affirmatively opt out of the portion of union fees that workers cannot be legally required to fund.

In 2015, a federal judge certified Foundation staff attorney W. James Young as the attorney for the entire class of more than 30,000 nonmembers who had been coerced since June 2013 into funding SEIU union officials through the scheme.

The case is pending in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on appeal from the District Court’s dismissal of the claim. Hours after the Janus ruling declared that workers must provide affirmative consent to be charged union fees, Young notified the Court of Appeals of the decision’s relevance to Hamidi.

Unions have been on notice of the dubious legal grounds of its “opt-out” policy since the Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court decision in 2012, when the Court ruled in favor of a similar class of workers forced to pay union dues.

Because SEIU Local 1000 did not adjust its policy of forcing workers to opt-out of non-chargeable fees after Knox, the Janus decision means the union could be required to refund all fees seized since June 2013 from the more than 30,000 class members, an amount estimated to be well over $100 million.

“For years union bosses have violated the rights of public employees and seized billions of dollars in unconstitutional forced fees,” said Mix, “Now, armed with the Janus precedent, Foundation staff attorneys are seeking to force union officials to return those ill-gotten gains to the workers whose rights they violated.”

7 May 2019

After More Than Twenty-Eight Years of Litigation, Independent-Minded Workers Prevail

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2018 edition.

Foundation-assisted couple forces union to settle case over illegally seized dues

Berlin Wall

Photo By: University of Minnesota Institute of Advanced Studies

Sherry and David Pirlott filed charges against union officials on November 8, 1989 — the day before the Berlin Wall began to be demolished — but enforcing their rights would take longer than tearing down one of the most visible symbols of the Cold War.

GREEN BAY, WI – The day before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Sherry and David Pirlott filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the Teamsters Local 75 union hierarchy for keeping them in the dark about their rights and how union officials were spending their forced union dues

Following nearly three decades of litigation between National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys and union lawyers at both the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Pirlotts’ rights were finally vindicated.

Former Steward Stood up to Corruption, Intimidation

Before the legal battle began, Sherry Pirlott was a Teamsters local 75 union steward at the Schreiber Foods cheese company

“It was very clear from the beginning that the other union stewards did things for the betterment of the union, not for the betterment of the workers,” she later recounted. “I just did what I thought was right, and the other stewards didn’t like that one bit.”

After union goons threatened her with bodily harm for refusing to toe the line, Sherry decided to stop financially supporting the union hierarchy. Teamsters Local 75 union officials then sued her in small-claims court to force her to pay for union activities. Unable to find a local attorney in Green Bay willing to take on union lawyers, she was forced to defend herself. The judge refused to hear her arguments and quickly awarded judgment to the Teamsters.

That’s when Sherry discovered the National Right to Work Foundation’s free legal aid program — and learned about her rights under a United States Supreme Court decision Foundation staff attorneys had just won.

Foundation-won Beck Precedent Requires Disclosure

In the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1988 that workers have the right to refrain from joining a union and subsidizing union activities unrelated to monopoly bargaining and contract administration, such as politics and member-only events.

Teamsters Local 75 union officials never informed the Pirlotts or their coworkers of their rights under Beck. Once they learned of these rights, Sherry and David Pirlott, also an employee at Schreiber Foods, resigned from formal union membership and objected to paying for nonchargeable union expenses. Providing only sketchy financial disclosure of the union’s expenses, Teamster union officials told the Pirlotts that only 1.1 percent of the union’s expenditures were for non-bargaining activities.

On November 8, 1989, with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, the Pirlotts filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. Nearly two years later, the NLRB General Counsel found merit to the charges and issued a complaint against the union for failing to inform workers of their Beck rights, providing inadequate financial disclosure, and charging objecting workers for expenditures incurred beyond their own bargaining unit.

Labor Board Bureaucrats Drag Feet For Years

In 1992, an administrative law judge issued a mixed ruling, and both the Pirlotts and the union appealed to the full NLRB. That’s when the outrageous delays began.

After more than six years of inaction by Bill Clinton’s NLRB, Foundation staff attorneys filed a rare mandamus petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to order the Board to issue a decision. Under mounting pressure form this legal action, the Clinton Labor Board finally acted on the case in September 1999. However, they simply sent the case back to an administrative law judge to determine whether the union could force the Pirlotts to pay for union organizing at other workplaces.

In the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Ellis v. Railway Clerks, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such expenses are not chargeable to non-members under the Railway Labor Act. Unfortunately, even though in Beck the Court ruled that the Railway Labor Act and the National Labor Relations Act are “statutory equivalents,” the judge in December 2001 ruled that Teamster union bosses could charge the Pirlotts to subsidize union organizing campaigns anywhere in the private sector.

The Pirlotts again appealed to the full NLRB. With no decision for four and a half years, Foundation staff attorneys filed a second mandamus petition and successfully convinced the D.C. Circuit to order the NLRB to respond in 2006. Unable to meet the November 30 deadline, the NLRB asked the D.C. Circuit for more time. When the NLRB finally issued a decision two months later, it failed to hold all union organizing expenditures nonchargeable under Ellis and Beck. Moreover, the Board overlooked the inadequacy of the union’s financial disclosure, so the Pirlotts appealed the decision to the D.C. Circuit.

On April 18, 2008, the D.C. Circuit issued its ruling. It declined to address the argument that objecting non-members can never be charged for organizing activities and remanded the case back to the NLRB to consider the adequacy of the union’s financial disclosure. The NLRB then sat on the case for the next seven years with little action.

The NLRB in March 2017 finally held that the Teamsters Local 75 union officials provided insufficient financial disclosure. Following this victory for the Pirlotts, settlement negotiations dragged on for nearly another year. Eventually, after Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law became operative at Schreiber Foods in January 2018, the union agreed to reimburse the Pirlotts with interest and post notices informing workers of their rights under Beck. Further, because of Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law, David Pirlott, who still works at Schreiber Foods, is finally free from any payments to the union bosses that fought to violate his rights for decades.

“With the help of NLRB bureaucrats, Teamster union bosses fought tooth and nail for nearly three decades to try to keep every last cent of the Pirlotts’ forced fees,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Pirlotts’ lengthy legal battle to enforce their rights despite the NLRB’s repeated delays demonstrates that Right to Work laws are the only way to truly protect independent-minded workers.”