AT&T Employee Wins Settlement from CWA Union after Facing Union Retaliation for Exercising Legal Rights
Union officials refused to allow worker to resign his union membership while on military leave and attempted to fine him in violation of federal labor law
Jacksonville, FL (January 24, 2020) – AT&T employee Jared Brewer has won a favorable settlement from Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 3106 union with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation after union officials violated his legal rights under federal law.
To end the case, union officials rescinded their threat to subject Brewer to internal union “discipline” and fine him for exercising his legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). They also were required to notify other workers of their legal rights by posting notices on the union’s bulletin boards at 22 AT&T Jacksonville facilities.
Brewer was on military leave when union officials called a strike in August 2019. He sent an email to them in which he resigned his union membership. Even though the NLRA guarantees employees the right to resign their union membership at any time, union officials refused to honor Brewer’s request. One union representative falsely claimed that his resignation letter was “untimely.”
After sending a certified letter containing the same resignation language, Brewer returned to work. Despite his resignation, union officials told Brewer in an October letter that they were bringing charges against him in an internal union “trial” for working during the union-initiated work stoppage. Brewer did not attend the November 7 “trial” because he had already resigned his union membership and, therefore, could not legally be subject to union disciplinary procedures.
Union officials notified Brewer on November 15 that the union found him guilty at its “trial” and imposed a monetary fine of more. They threatened him with legal action if he did not pay the fine within 21 days.
In response, Brewer filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Brewer charged that union officials violated his legal rights under the NLRA by disciplining and fining him as a nonmember, and by denying his resignation. Union officials are prohibited from requiring formal union membership as a condition of employment by both Florida’s Right to Work law and the NLRA, and under the NLRA workers are free to resign their union membership at any time.
Brewer’s unfair labor practice charges drove union officials to settle. This requires union officials to honor Brewer’s resignation and rescind the fine and union “discipline” against him. Union officials also must post for 60 days in its union hall and numerous AT&T facilities a notice in which the union promises not to “restrain or coerce” workers from exercising their legal rights to resign and work during strikes.
“Faced with legal action from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, CWA union officials backed down from their blatant violations of longstanding labor law and were forced to settle with Mr. Brewer,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Federal labor law is crystal clear: Workers have an absolute right to resign their union membership if they choose, and once a worker has exercised that right they cannot be subject to fines levied by any internal union boss kangaroo court.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Swedish Medical Center Employees Impacted by Planned SEIU Union Boss Strike
Already facing multiple federal charges brought by SMC employees concerning illegal dues deductions, SEIU 1199NW officials now demand workers abandon their patients
Seattle, WA (January 23, 2020) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have issued a special legal notice to the almost 8,000 Swedish Medical Center employees who will be affected by the strike planned by Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW officials to begin on January 28. The strike announcement comes after Swedish Medical Center and union officials failed to ratify a new monopoly bargaining contract, according to January 17 news reports.
The legal notice informs rank-and-file Swedish Medical Center workers of the rights SEIU bosses won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to refuse to abandon their patients and to keep working to support their families despite the union-ordered strike. The notice discusses why workers across the country frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations.
“This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be fully informed before they do so.”
The full notice is available at www.nrtw.org/SMC-Strike.
The notice clearly outlines the process that Swedish Medical Center nurses and other employees should follow if they want to exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishment from union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters. It also reminds them of their right to cut off all union dues payments in the absence of a monopoly bargaining contract between the hospital and the SEIU, and their right to pay only the portion of dues directly germane to bargaining once the strike is over, under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. The notice encourages employees to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience union resistance as they attempt to exercise any of these rights.
SEIU 1199NW bosses are currently facing federal charges from Swedish Medical Center workers, who assert that the bosses violated their Beck rights and illegally rejected requests to cut off dues deductions while there was no monopoly bargaining contract in effect. And, in October 2019, SEIU 775NW officials were forced to settle a federal case and refund well over $3 million to home-based healthcare providers in the state who asserted in the lawsuit that the SEIU had diverted a percentage of Medicaid payments from them to the union in violation of their statutory and constitutional rights.
“Given Washington State SEIU bosses’ repeated flouting of even the most basic employee rights protections, it is understandable that Swedish Medical Center employees may question whether the upcoming union-ordered strike is really what is best for themselves, their families, and their patients,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Swedish Medical Center employees should know they unequivocally have the right to resign their union memberships and avoid all union fee demands and strike orders in the absence of a contract.”
“Should SEIU bosses again refuse to comply with Swedish Medical Center employees’ legal rights, we encourage rank-and-file workers to immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” added Mix.
Kentucky UPS Employee Appeals to Labor Board General Counsel in Case Charging Teamsters Officials with Illegal Dues Deductions
Union bosses continued to seize dues without a monopoly bargaining contract, rebuffing multiple valid attempts from employee to end dues deductions from paycheck
Hopkinsville, KY (January 22, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Hopkinsville, KY-based UPS employee William Anderson is appealing his case against Teamsters Local 215 union bosses to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC. Anderson has charged Teamsters officials with illegally rejecting requests he made to stop dues deductions from his paycheck while there was no contract in place between the Teamsters union and UPS, and continuing to seize dues from his paycheck after receiving those requests. Under Kentucky’s Right to Work law, Anderson cannot be required to pay dues to keep his job.
Anderson’s appeal recounts that he sent a letter to Teamsters bosses on March 25, 2019, resigning his union membership and cutting off dues deductions. Teamsters officials responded the next week by acknowledging his resignation, but claiming that his dues checkoff revocation was not timely submitted. Anderson tried to cease dues deductions again with a letter on April 8, 2019, but union agents rebuffed this one too, claiming that his revocation had to be submitted during a 15-day “window period” in February to be valid.
As Anderson was trying to stop the dues flow from his paycheck, his appeal notes, Teamsters officials and UPS had not yet ratified a new monopoly bargaining contract. Although Teamsters bosses had failed to inform him of his right to revoke his dues checkoff at will while no contract was in effect, Anderson discovered his rights independently and sent union agents letters on April 17 and May 8, 2019, asking for a copy of the new monopoly bargaining contract. Anderson “believed this new contract was not ratified at the time he sent his revocation letters” and thus thought his two attempts to stop dues should have been honored.
In response, Anderson’s appeal notes, Teamsters bosses sent him on May 21, 2019, a copy of an “extension agreement dated June 21, 2018 that indefinitely extended the prior contract” past its expiration date, ostensibly in an attempt to show Anderson that there was never a contract hiatus in which he could have stopped dues deductions. Anderson’s appeal argues that, because federal law forbids dues checkoffs which are “irrevocable…beyond the termination date of the applicable” monopoly bargaining contract, Teamsters officials violated his rights by rejecting his attempts to cut off dues.
With free legal aid from the Foundation, Anderson filed federal charges at NLRB Region 10 against Teamsters bosses in September 2019, asserting that they had violated his rights by not informing him of the times he could revoke his dues checkoff, limiting to an illegal “window period” the time in which he could stop dues deductions, and “rejecting his revocation during a contract hiatus.” Region 10 rejected Anderson’s contention that Teamsters bosses had denied his revocation while there was no contract in effect, prompting his appeal to the NLRB General Counsel in Washington, DC.
“Teamsters bosses, in this case and many others, have given the very workers they claim to represent misinformation about their right to cut off union dues deductions and imposed arbitrary restrictions on the exercise of that right simply to keep dues money flowing into their coffers,” observed National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “We urge the General Counsel to quickly prosecute Teamsters officials for illegally blocking Mr. Anderson’s attempt to exercise his right to stop funding union activites.”
Seattle Hospital Employee Hits SEIU Union with Federal Charges for Illegally Deducting Dues after Contract Expired
SEIU 1199NW union officials facing second round of federal charges from Swedish Medical Center employees as union bosses threaten strike
Seattle, WA (January 10, 2020) – Swedish Medical Center employee Daniel Dalison is charging Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW bosses and his employer with illegally seizing union dues from his paycheck when there is no contract in effect between the union and employer, and additionally with unlawfully ignoring two attempts he made to exercise his rights to resign union membership and pay reduced dues. His charges were filed at Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Dalison’s charges come as news reports indicate that SEIU 1199NW bosses could potentially order Swedish Medical Center employees to strike if a new contract is not approved by January 10. The Foundation’s website provides information on the legal rights of workers in the absence of a contract, including the process by which one can resign his or her union membership and rebuff both union fee demands and any strike orders.
According to his charges, Dalison sent two letters to SEIU bosses in December 2019 ending his union membership and asserting his right under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision to pay only the amount of union dues directly germane to bargaining. Because Washington State lacks Right to Work protections for workers, private sector workers like Dalison who refrain from formal union membership can be legally required to pay a portion of dues in order to keep their jobs.
Dalison’s charges also note that his membership revocation letter should have been effective in stopping all dues deductions from his paycheck because the monopoly bargaining contract between Swedish Medical Center and the SEIU union had expired, leaving him with no active legal obligation to pay any fees to the SEIU hierarchy. Nevertheless, his charges state, neither Swedish Medical Center nor SEIU officials have responded to his requests, and Swedish Medical Center continues to deduct full membership dues from Dalison’s paycheck at the behest of SEIU officials.
Dalison’s charges also allege that SEIU has never given him or his coworkers “adequate notice of their rights” under Beck. Those rights include the rights to be a nonmember and as such object and not pay full union dues, and the right to be provided “disclosure of the reduced fee amount employees will have to pay if they choose Beck objector status” and an independent audit of the union’s expenditures. The charge explains that SEIU bosses’ actions and omissions violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and are attempts by the SEIU union to “trick or force nonmembers into funding its political and ideological agenda.”
Dalison’s charges come just months after another Swedish Medical Center employee, NancyEllen Elster, filed federal charges with Foundation aid similarly alleging that SEIU bosses never furnished employees a proper Beck rights notice, and had denied her request to pay the Beck reduced fee rather than full dues. Region 19 found merit in Elster’s charges and imposed an October 2019 settlement intended to rectify the union’s violations. Because SEIU officials have apparently flouted the requirements of that settlement, Dalison’s charges urge Region 19 resume prosecution of the SEIU for the violations in Elster’s case.
Those charges were not the only time Washington State SEIU bosses were recently caught violating workers’ legal rights. In October 2019, SEIU 775NW officials were forced to settle a federal case and refund well over $3 million to home-based healthcare providers in the state who asserted in the lawsuit that the SEIU had diverted a percentage of Medicaid payments from them to the union in violation of their statutory and constitutional rights.
“Given Washington State SEIU bosses’ repeated flouting of even the most basic employee rights protections, it is understandable that Swedish Medical Center employees may begin questioning whether the threatened strike is really what is best for themselves, their families, and their patients,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Swedish Medical Center employees should know they unequivocally have the right to resign their union memberships and avoid all union fee demands and strike orders in the absence of a contract.”
“If SEIU bosses further refuse to comply with Swedish Medical Center employees’ legal rights, other rank-and-file workers there should immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” added Mix.
National Right to Work Foundation Submits Comments Urging Labor Board to Eliminate Policies that Trap Workers in Union Ranks They Oppose
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) initiating rulemaking to modify rules used to block workers’ right to escape union ranks
Washington, DC (January 9, 2020) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has just submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), urging it to issue a final rule to nix three arbitrary policies that union officials frequently manipulate to trap workers in union ranks despite a majority’s desire to oust the union from the workplace. The three policies are not statutory, but were created by past Board precedents. The comments, submitted by Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse, support all three changes the NLRB is currently considering in rulemaking. However, the comments advocate an important modification to the Board’s proposed change in how it deals with so-called “blocking charges.”
The NLRB’s “blocking charge” policy currently lets union bosses file unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against an employer to halt employee votes to decertify unions, even if the allegations against the employer have no connection to the decertification effort. The agency plans to eliminate that policy and replace it with one that lets decertification elections proceed while such charges are pending, but requires the results of the vote to be withheld until those charges are resolved.
The Foundation’s comments explain that the Board’s proposed “vote and impound” procedure does not fully address the blocking charge problem, because even after workers vote union officials could continue to trap them in unwanted representation by dragging out the ULP process to maintain monopoly bargaining powers for months or years before the vote can be announced. The comments point out that this will unfairly “frustrate and confuse employees who may have to wait years to see the election’s results.” Instead, the Foundation urges the Board to release vote tallies first to “decrease litigation and give parties greater information on whether to settle” unfair labor practice charge allegations unlikely to impact the election’s outcome.
Foundation staff attorneys have provided legal assistance to scores of workers faced with “blocking charges,” most recently a group of Alaskan bus drivers who were freed in December 2019 from an unpopular Teamsters union after three years of attempts to remove it. One employee in that situation commented to the NLRB that Teamsters officials’ continued blocking of an election was “the most unfair and anti-democratic event” with which he had ever been involved.
The Foundation’s comments support the NLRB’s move to reinstate a process that allows employees and rival unions to file for secret-ballot elections after a union has been installed in a workplace through abuse-prone “card check” drives that bypass the NLRB-supervised election process. That critical modification to the so-called “voluntary recognition bar” policy would reinstate a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp NLRB decision. Despite thousands of workers using the process to secure secret ballot votes after being unionized through card checks, the Obama NLRB overturned Dana in 2010.
The Foundation’s comments also support the agency’s proposed rule to crack down on schemes in the construction industry where employers and union bosses are allowed to unilaterally install a union in a workplace without first providing proof of majority union support among the workers. Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in a case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled for the worker, who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.
The Foundation has long called for the NLRB to abandon all barriers to employee decertification of unions which the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that the agency is charged with enforcing, does not mandate or even mention. In addition to the “blocking charge” policy and “voluntary recognition bar” that are subjects of the current rulemaking, the Foundation also opposes other arbitrary and non-statutory barriers to workers exercising their right to a decertification election.
“For too long the statutory right of employees under the National Labor Relations Act to vote out a union they oppose has been trampled by arbitrary NLRB policies that allow union bosses to maintain power despite the overwhelming opposition of rank-and-file workers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Delays in the rulemaking process this Board has used to address these coercive policies means workers across the country continue to be trapped in unions they oppose every day, which is why the NLRB should now swiftly finalize these rules as the Foundation’s comments advocate.”
Petition contains signatures of more than enough employees at charter school to trigger secret-ballot election to oust teacher union imposed through unreliable “card check” drive
San Diego, CA (January 8, 2020) – A group of employees at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA), a charter school in the Chollas View neighborhood, have signed a petition for a vote to remove the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union from monopoly bargaining power at the school. GPA teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano, who obtained free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, just submitted the decertification petition at the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
Contention has surrounded the SDEA’s presence at GPA, as the union installed itself in January 2019 after conducting a controversial “card check” drive, bypassing the more reliable method of a secret-ballot election whether to certify a union as the monopoly representative of all educators in the school. GPA transitioned from being a regular public school to a charter preparatory academy in 2005 as the result of a campaign by parents, teachers, and administrators who believed that school district and union bureaucracies were not serving the students’ interests, especially by failing to combat the issues of gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.
Since the school’s unionization without a secret ballot vote in January 2019, no monopoly bargaining contract has been approved. GPA parents and educators have accused SDEA agents of sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation, making unnecessary and disparaging comments to school leadership during bargaining sessions, and plotting to prevent the California NAACP from giving the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, an award for helping minority students succeed.
Dr. Chiscano, who teaches chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students, began circulating the decertification petition in October 2019. She soon obtained the signatures of well over the number of her fellow educators necessary to trigger a PERB-supervised secret-ballot vote to remove the union. Their petition was filed with the PERB immediately following the one-year anniversary of the union’s installation.
In December, union officials preemptively filed a charge at PERB seeking “that the certification year be extended.” That would block the educators’ right to remove the union from their workplace for another year despite no evidence or even an allegation that any educator violated the law. Such “blocking charges” are a tactic union lawyers frequently use to block rank-and-file employees from holding secret-ballot elections that could result in the removal of union officials from power as employees’ designated monopoly representative.
Dr. Chiscano turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid to challenge this attempt by union officials to stymie her and her coworkers’ right to hold a decertification vote to oust a union they believe lacks the support of a majority of the school’s educators.
“Rather than face a secret-ballot vote of the rank-and-file educators they claim to represent, SDEA union bosses are attempting to resort to legal trickery to trap teachers in a union they oppose by blocking their right to hold a decertification election,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “By using these coercive tactics to attempt to trap teachers in union ranks SDEA union officials do wrong by GPA’s namesake, AFL-CIO union founder Samuel Gompers, who himself urged devotion to ‘the principles of voluntarism’ and reminded all American workers that ‘no lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.’”
The Regulatory Review has ranked the essay entitled “The Future Looks Bright for the Right to Work Movement” by National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond J. LaJeunesse, Jr. as one of the publication’s top essays in 2019.
The essay highlights successes in the ongoing fight against forced unionism through legal and legislative reform:
Thomas Jefferson famously said that it is “sinful and tyrannical” for government “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors.” That principle is consistent with the guarantees of freedom of speech and association enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Yet, some federal and state labor laws in this country have long authorized requirements that workers pay union dues as a condition of employment, requirements known as the “union shop” or “agency shop.” Increasingly, however, legislatures and courts are recognizing that workers have a constitutional right to work without being forced to subsidize a union.
Among recent achievements for the Right to Work movement are five new state Right to Work laws passed since 2012 and the landmark Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision in June 2018.
The complete essay is available to read online here.