Danielle Cookson, a sixteen year-old high-school student from San Diego, California, wanted to work hard and save money for college. Like many up-and-coming teens, Danielle got a job at a local grocery store, working part-time after school and on weekends.

But when she started her job as a courtesy clerk for the Albertson’s grocery giant bagging groceries, helping patrons, and gathering carts, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135 union officials attempted to seize over a hundred dollars in forced dues from her paycheck and misinformed her that she must pay full dues or be fired.

Determined and self-motivated, Danielle initially took action based on information she found on the Foundation’s website. Ultimately, she requested free legal aid from the Foundation, and Foundation attorneys helped to file charges against the UFCW union local for failing to respect employees’ legal rights by ordering Danielle and her coworkers to join and pay full dues to the union as a job condition.

Currently, the union is still demanding that Danielle pay 95.7 percent of full union dues and she is yet to receive any independent financial audit as required by law. She awaits action from the National Labor Relations Board as it investigates her charges and decides whether to prosecute the union for unfair labor practices.

Danielle in Her Own Words

“I don’t want to join because I don’t want to have to pay the fees since I’m saving up money for college.” –Danielle Cookson describing how her goal to save for her future was hindered by union officials

“[The union is] not going to do anything for me. I’m sixteen with a part-time job and they just want my money.” –Danielle Cookson explaining how she does not want to be forced into union ranks

“My dad told me that I didn’t have to join the union. So, if I didn’t have to join, why should I have to pay the dues and fees?” –Danielle Cookson recounting her frustrations after union officials badgered her for forced dues

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