Michigan Electrician Hits IBEW Union Bosses with Federal Charges for Illegal Retaliation for Working for His Wife’s Business
Union officials kept electrician in the dark about right to resign union membership, then demanded thousands in fines after he and wife rebuffed union contract demands
Detroit, MI (February 19, 2020) – A Michigan electrician is hitting International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58 union bosses with federal charges for not telling him about his right to resign his union membership, and subsequently illegally fining him. The charges were filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Charles Lanning had worked as an electrician for several different employers since early 2008, before joining his wife’s business in 2018. His charge reports that, though he was on IBEW membership rolls during that time period, IBEW agents had never informed him of his right to resign his union membership, or his right prior to the passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law to pay only the portion of union dues directly related to monopoly bargaining under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Since March 2013, Michigan has had Right to Work protections for workers, which outlaw arrangements where union bosses can require workers to pay them a portion of their paychecks as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
Mr. Lanning’s charge recounts that he left a job with a contractor in March 2018 so he could work for his wife’s business, Homestead Enterprises of Michigan. After doing so, he called the IBEW Local 58 office to find out if he would still be required to pay any kind of fees to the union despite the fact that he “would not be seeking work through the union hiring hall for the foreseeable future.” IBEW officials told him that they would continue to demand quarterly dues from him, and again failed to apprise him that he had the right to resign his union membership completely and exercise his right under Michigan’s Right to Work law to stop all union payments. Because of this misinformation, Mr. Lanning continued to pay quarterly dues.
In September 2019, according to the charge, IBEW union bosses told Mr. Lanning in a text message that they needed to update him on the “contract changes making it possible for members to be contractors.” Mr. and Mrs. Lanning later sat for a meeting with IBEW bosses to discuss these supposed changes, during which the union bosses pressured Lanning’s wife to sign a contract which would force her to bargain with the IBEW union simply for hiring her husband.
Mrs. Lanning did not sign, and IBEW bosses subsequently informed Mr. Lanning that the IBEW had brought union disciplinary charges against him and that “we may forgive them if you decided to become signatory” to the contract. At the proceeding before a union tribunal to determine whether Mr. Lanning had violated the union’s constitution and bylaws, Mr. Lanning was told that “guys lose their retirement for doing this kind of thing” and that IBEW agents would “salt” his wife’s business. “Salting” is a deceptive union practice in which union organizers apply for jobs at nonunion companies with the intention of organizing the workers into monopoly union ranks or instigating costly and often frivolous legal action.
In addition to the threats against his retirement and his wife’s business, IBEW Local 58’s internal trial board convicted Mr. Lanning of violating union rules and demanded that he pay $10,000 in fines. Mr. Lanning’s charge argues that he was never a consensual member of the IBEW because he had never been told that membership was optional. Because his membership was never valid, the charge explains, all of the union-created disciplinary measures are flagrant violations of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects workers’ “right to refrain from” union activity.
“Michigan union bosses are shamelessly attacking a man for choosing to work alongside his wife all to expand their coercive power over individual workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This brazen behavior, combined with IBEW bosses’ long-running misinformation campaign against Mr. Lanning concerning his rights, are just one example of the continuing widespread corruption among Michigan union bosses that Foundation attorneys will continue to fight.”
Since Michigan’s Right to Work law became effective in March 2013, Foundation staff attorneys have brought over 120 cases for Michigan workers subjected to coercive union boss tactics.
Fort Campbell Employee Hits Laborers Union Bosses with EEOC Charges for Illegal Religious Discrimination
Instead of accommodating employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs as federal law requires, LIUNA union officials attempted to interrogate her about her religious beliefs
Clarksville, TN (February 4, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an employee of J & J Worldwide Service filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on the grounds that Laborers Local Union 576 (LIUNA) officials illegally discriminated against her because of her religious beliefs.
According to Dorothy Frame’s charge, she sought a religious accommodation so she would not have to fund the union in violation of her religious beliefs, only to have the union deny her request and illegally demand she “provide a theological defense.” Frame, who is Catholic, objects to having union fees deducted from her paycheck because she opposes the union’s stance on abortion. The charge will now be investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Frame works at Fort Campbell, a military installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. According to her charge, she sent LIUNA union officials a letter in July 2019 requesting a “religious accommodation of her objection to joining or financially supporting the union.” Frame’s charge notes that she believes abortion is “the unjustified destruction of a human life,” a belief that is rooted in “her understanding of Catholic teaching, scripture, and God’s will.” Because of those sincere beliefs and her knowledge that the union “funds and supports abortion,” her charge states that for her “it would be sinful to join or financially support the union.”
Frame had been a LIUNA member for four years before requesting an accommodation. According to the charge, she converted to Catholicism in 2017 and discovered the conflict between her religious beliefs and union officials’ position on abortion “shortly before she wrote her accommodation request.”
Although Kentucky and Tennessee both have Right to Work laws which ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, Fort Campbell’s status as an “exclusive federal enclave” overrides those state laws. The monopoly bargaining contract between J & J Worldwide Service and the LIUNA union requires Frame to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. If she received the religious accommodation federal law requires, the portion of her paycheck that would normally go toward dues would be redirected to a charity that Frame and union officials both find acceptable.
Instead, LIUNA bosses rebuffed Frame’s request in August 2019, sending her a letter in which a union lawyer told Frame she would need to “provide a theological defense” of her beliefs to meet LIUNA union officials’ supposed standard for a “legitimate justification” for her accommodation request. Frame then provided a letter from her parish priest supporting her religious opposition to abortion, but, according to her charge, “the Union lawyer rejected this evidence based on his supposedly superior religious views.”
Frame’s Foundation-provided attorney also provided evidence to LIUNA officials that abortion violates the teachings of the Catholic Church, but her charge notes that union officials never responded to this additional evidence and continue to take money from her paycheck in violation of her sincere religious beliefs. Her charge alleges this violates her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against an individual based on his or her religious beliefs. If the EEOC finds merit in her charges, Frame could be given a “right to sue” letter, which authorizes her to file a federal lawsuit against LIUNA officials to vindicate her rights.
Foundation staff attorneys regularly aid workers that have been the subject of religious discrimination by union bosses. In November, Boston College electrician Ardeshir Ansari, a Muslim, filed an EEOC Title VII lawsuit with free Foundation legal assistance after Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) bosses continued to deduct fees from his paycheck despite his request for a religious accommodation.
“It is outrageous that LIUNA bosses are forcing Ms. Frame to choose between keeping her job and violating her sincere religious beliefs,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While such religious discrimination is a blatant violation of federal law, union boss demands in this case serve as a reminder why no worker in America should be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose, whether their opposition is religious-based or for other reasons.”
National Workplace Advocacy Group to Charter School Teachers: ‘Know Your Rights to Protect Yourself from Compulsory Unionism’
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President issues statement in recognition of National School Choice Week
Washington, DC (January 30, 2020) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement in recognition of National School Choice Week 2020:
This week, as we encourage parents to explore and choose the education that will best serve the needs of their children, we must also recognize that teacher union officials are constantly posing threats to this freedom. For decades, they have engaged in sustained political campaigns to undermine school choice, often specifically targeting charter schools and charter school teachers. But despite that opposition, charter schools have enjoyed steady growth and popularity.
So union officials have taken the fight into charter schools themselves. Coast-to-coast, teacher union bosses have employed coercive tactics to foist their so-called ‘representation’ onto charter school educators. This puts charter school students and teachers at risk: Many of them were attracted to charter schools precisely because they reject the one-size-fits-all approach promoted by national teacher union bosses.
Take, for example, Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego, California. The school made an impressive transition in 2005 from a traditional public school to a charter school after 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 gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.
In 2019, after being unionized with a controversial ‘card check’ drive that bypassed the more reliable method of holding a secret ballot vote, Gompers teachers began circulating a petition for a vote to remove the union. Despite the teachers having more than enough signatures to trigger a vote, union officials are already trying to block the decertification election from taking place.
Charter school employees are entitled to certain constitutional and statutory rights, but unfortunately union officials frequently attempt to keep employees in the dark about those rights. That is why National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have provided direct, free legal aid to over 10,000 teachers since its founding, including the teachers at Gompers, and why the Foundation has its Charter School Initiative. Foundation-won legal precedents have also expanded the workplace rights of millions of teachers across the country.
Led by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the National Right to Work Foundation’s Charter School Initiative aims to enlighten charter school employees about their rights so that they can make decisions about union representation in an atmosphere free of union boss threats, harassment, coercion, or misrepresentation. To that end, Foundation attorneys have developed free educational materials for charter school teachers and other employees. Furthermore, Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to defend charter school employees from the injustices of forced unionism.
Charter school teachers and other employees: You have rights. For more information about your rights and the Foundation’s Charter School Initiative, check out our website at http://www.nrtw.org/charterschools.”
SAG-AFTRA Union Officials Slammed with Federal Labor Charges After Threatening Unlawful Union ‘Discipline’ against 12-Year-Old Girl
Union officials violate girl’s legal rights by initiating proceedings against her for filming a nonunion commercial, even though she was not a union member
Los Angeles, CA (January 28, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, 12-year-old actress Aundrea Smith filed unfair labor practice charges against the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union for violating her legal rights under federal labor law.
Smith filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after union officials initiated internal union proceedings and threatened to impose union “discipline” – likely a fine – on Smith for filming a nonunion commercial, even though she was not a union member at the time. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits union officials from imposing union “discipline” on nonmembers.
Smith did join SAG-AFTRA in April 2019, one month after filming the commercial, but subsequently resigned her union membership upon learning of her rights under the NLRA in August 2019. The NLRA provides that an individual cannot be forced to join a union just to get or keep a job and guarantees individuals the absolute right to resign their union membership whenever they choose.
Earlier this month, Communication Workers of America (CWA) union officials were forced to settle a similar case with Florida worker Jared Brewer, who is employed by AT&T. Union officials refused to acknowledge Brewer’s union membership resignation while on military leave. Then union officials unlawfully attempted to impose union “discipline” on Brewer for returning to work during a work stoppage, even though he had already resigned as a union member.
“The NLRB must intervene to halt this blatant and unlawful abuse of power by SAG-AFTRA union officials against this young actress,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We’re proud to stand with Aundrea who is standing up for her rights against this shameful bullying by union bosses.”
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.”