Settlements: Union officials must inform employees of their rights to refrain from formal union membership and halt their illegal discipline during or after strikes
Boston, MA (October 2, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have won favorable settlements for Stop & Shop supermarket employees whose rights were violated by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) officials before, during, and after the union boss-ordered strike on the grocery chain in April 2019. The extraordinary settlements were directed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 1 in Boston.
Two employees, Matthew Coffey and Saood Rafique, had been misled by union agents from the start of their respective employments into thinking that joining the UFCW was a condition of employment at Stop & Shop. Such an arrangement, sometimes called a “closed shop,” was outlawed by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Having never informed the employees that they had the rights to refrain from formal union membership and to pay reduced fees as nonmembers, UFCW bosses also charged each of them full union dues for years.
After independently learning their rights at the onset of the April strike, both men decided to resign union membership and return to work. UFCW officials then threatened them with illegal union discipline for violating their alleged “membership” oaths.
The settlements require UFCW union officials to post remedial rights notices in over 70 Stop & Shop stores, as well as on the internet and in the union’s monthly newsletter, to properly inform employees of their rights to both abstain from union membership and pay only the amount of union fees directly germane to bargaining. These settlements enforce the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. The remedial notices also announce that UFCW officials will return to Coffey and Rafique dues seized from them in violation of their Beck rights.
Also included in the remedial notices are declarations that UFCW officials will “process resignations and objections of [all] bargaining unit employees who have resigned” union membership and “will not threaten [employees] with internal union discipline or fines” for returning to work during a strike. The settlements totally vindicate the unfair labor practice charges filed by the two grocery workers.
Both Coffey and Rafique experienced vicious backlash and retaliation from UFCW agents for exercising their right to rebuff the union bosses’ strike orders. Coffey’s initial unfair labor practice charge, filed with free assistance from the Foundation, reports that UFCW agents targeted him with personal slurs, threats of violence, and other forms of harassment after he went back to work.
Rafique asserted in his charge, also filed with Foundation help, that a UFCW steward told other employees not to work with him once the strike concluded “to make his job duties…more difficult to carry out.” After the strike, Coffey received letters from union bosses containing illegal demands that he appear before a UFCW tribunal to face punishment for exercising his right to remain on the job rather than participate in the union boss-ordered strike.
The settlements come amid similar UFCW boss strike threats up and down the West Coast, from California to Washington State. They also occur during continuing tensions arising from the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors while its current and former heads are embroiled in a widening fraud and embezzlement investigation that has already led to multiple convictions. Just as Foundation staff attorneys issued a special legal notice in the Spring to workers affected by the Stop & Shop strike, Foundation attorneys have issued a notice of their rights for GM workers affected by the UAW boss strike: www.nrtw.org/UAW-GM.
“This victory for Mr. Rafique, Mr. Coffey, and their co-workers should serve as a reminder to all American employees – and union officials – that the individual rights of workers don’t cease to exist when union bosses call a strike,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Workers have a legal right to defy union boss strike demands, and workers subjected to union threats, harassment or worse for exercising those rights can turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in holding union bosses accountable for their illegal actions.”
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.