Settlement: Union bosses must cease telling workers that they could face imprisonment for exercising rights and that workers must provide social security numbers for dues deductions
St. Elmo, IL (March 12, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a worker at the St. Elmo, Illinois, ConAgra Foods facility has won a settlement in his case against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 union.
The employee, Tracy May, charged UFCW officials with falsely telling workers that union membership was required as a condition of employment at the plant, and with leaving employees in the dark about their rights to refrain from formal union membership and pay only the amount of union dues directly related to bargaining purposes. The settlement was approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 14 in St. Louis.
The settlement requires UFCW union officials to fully inform employees of their rights to both abstain from union membership and pay reduced dues, and also to give employees “information setting forth the percentage of the reduction in dues and fees charged to” those who are not union members, including the basis for the calculation of that percentage. UFCW officials also must stop telling “employees that they are required to provide their social security number” to have dues deducted from their paychecks, and that “filing charges with the NLRB could result in imprisonment.”
May filed his unfair labor practice charge against UFCW officials in October 2019. His charge contended that union bosses had been “telling employees that joining the union and/or paying dues is a condition of employment” since they finalized a monopoly bargaining contract with ConAgra.
The charge also noted that he and his coworkers were never “given valid, written, and adequate notice” of their right to abstain from union membership as per the NLRB v. General Motors Supreme Court decision, and their right to pay only union fees directly related to bargaining as per the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. UFCW officials had also never given them an independent audit of the union’s expenses, a disclosure required under Beck.
Because Illinois has not enacted Right to Work protections for employees, union bosses can have private sector workers fired for not paying fees to a union. However, union officials can only require workers to pay the portion of dues allowed by Beck and must follow Beck procedures before seizing such forced fees from workers who are not union members.
UFCW Local 881 bosses were the target of litigation by employees at the St. Elmo ConAgra plant just last year, when the bosses attempted to block a petition for a vote to remove the union that was submitted by employee Robert Gentry, also with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys.
In that case, union bosses initially claimed that a settlement they had earlier negotiated with ConAgra should have nullified the decertification effort, as per the NLRB’s non-statutory “settlement bar” which gives unions immunity from decertification efforts for a period of time after a settlement is reached between an employer and a union. They also filed “blocking charges” against ConAgra in another attempt to hold up the vote. The Regional Director initially let UFCW bosses stop the vote, but the full NLRB in Washington overturned that decision and ordered the Region to let the vote proceed.
“Although Mr. May’s victory is certainly good news, UFCW bosses continue to demonstrate a disturbing practice of disregarding the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Because Illinois lacks a Right to Work law ensuring all worker payments to unions are strictly voluntary, union bosses have every incentive to demand union dues from workers beyond what the law permits.”
Mix added, “Under Right to Work laws like those in effect in 27 states, the decision to join or pay fees to a union is fully in the hands of individual employees, and union bosses must use persuasion – not coercion or deception – to secure the support of those they claim to represent.”
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.