UFCW Local 455 officials rejected three requests by worker to exercise right to end union dues deductions, as protected by Texas Right to Work law
Houston, TX (February 28, 2020) – A Houston-based Kroger employee has just filed federal charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455 union, contending that union bosses at his workplace misinformed him about his right to resign his union membership and cut off dues deductions, and illegally ignored multiple attempts by him to exercise those rights while continuing to seize dues money from his paycheck. The charges were filed at Region 16 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Alfredo Rodriguez Lopez, sent UFCW officials a letter in June 2019 declaring that he was exercising those rights. Rodriguez’s charges argue that union bosses ignored this letter, and ignored an identical one that he sent the following month. As this was going on, Kroger continued to seize a cut of Rodriguez’s paycheck every month at the behest of UFCW bosses.
Because Rodriguez works in Texas, a state with Right to Work protections for its public and private employees, he cannot legally be compelled to pay union dues in order to keep his job.
Rodriguez later asked a union steward about the status of his request to end dues deductions. According to the charge, the union steward claimed that he had to submit his dues checkoff revocation letter on the “anniversary date” (the annual anniversary of the date he originally signed his dues checkoff authorization).
The charge reports that UFCW bosses sent Rodriguez a copy of his dues checkoff authorization card at least a month after his third request to stop union dues deductions. The card read that his dues checkoff was irrevocable except for a 15-day “escape window” “prior to the end of any subsequent yearly period or bargaining agreement termination date.” It also contained a provision which stated that the authorization would remain effective “if my employment with any Employer is terminated and I am later re-employed by the same Employer or any other Employer under contract with Local 455.”
In January 2020, union bosses sent Rodriguez a letter which finally acknowledged receipt of his membership resignation and dues checkoff revocation, but rejected his dues checkoff revocation as “untimely.”
Rodriguez’s charge argues that UFCW bosses’ continued obstruction of Rodriguez’s checkoff revocation and ongoing siphoning of dues from his paycheck violates his rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees workers “the right to refrain from any or all” union activities. Rodriguez is also challenging UFCW bosses’ checkoff language, which fails to mention that workers can cut off dues deductions during a contract hiatus or when they switch employers.
Last year, Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal aid to two Massachusetts-based employees of Stop & Shop grocery stores during the heavily publicized April 2019 strike on the chain ordered by UFCW officials. The workers, who resigned their union memberships after the strike was called so they could continue to work, faced illegal threats and bullying from union agents but eventually won settlements afterward forcing UFCW bosses to provide remedies for all the statutory violations they committed.
Foundation staff attorneys also won an appeal last October for an Illinois-based ConAgra Foods employee, who had petitioned the NLRB to conduct a vote to kick out a UFCW union from his plant. UFCW bosses had filed unrelated charges against ConAgra in an attempt to stop the vote and an NLRB Regional Director initially blocked it, but the full NLRB in Washington sided with the worker and ordered the Region to let the vote proceed.
Multiple employees in the New York City area who are under the bargaining power of UFCW bosses are also currently receiving aid from Foundation staff attorneys, including two Plattdeutsche Home Society retirement home employees in Franklin Square, NY. They filed unfair labor practice charges last May against UFCW Local 2013 because union agents failed to provide a legally-required financial breakdown of the reduced fees that they must pay as nonmembers. Foundation staff attorneys also won a settlement for a New Hyde Park Stop & Shop worker last September who was illegally misinformed by UFCW bosses that union membership was mandatory.
“Once again UFCW union bosses have been caught waging months-long campaigns of misinformation and compulsion simply to maintain their coercive influence over rank-and-file workers and to keep illegal dues flowing into their bank accounts,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Just as they did during the UFCW boss-ordered strike on Stop & Shop, and at many other times last year, Foundation staff attorneys will continue to fight to ensure that independent-minded workers can exercise their rights freely in the workplace.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.