NLRB finding: Seizure of dues by union officials from Ford employee was a violation of his rights and “more than mere negligence”
Washington, D.C. (February 26, 2019) – Ford Motor Company employee Lloyd Stoner won a ruling against the United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan, in his federal labor case with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas ruled that UAW Local 600 engaged in unfair labor practices, prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act, by accepting union dues deducted from Stoner’s wages for two-and-a-half months after he resigned union membership and revoked his authorization to deduct dues. The union also failed to refund any of the dues taken without Stoner’s consent for nearly five months after his revocation and then belatedly failed to refund the entire amount owed him.
Stoner had already won a favorable settlement last month from Ford, which was charged in a separate complaint for deducting the unauthorized dues from his paycheck.
ALJ Rosas found that union officials restrained Stoner from exercising his legal rights. Workers are entitled to resign union membership at any time under federal law. Furthermore, Michigan’s Right to Work Law passed in 2012 states that nonmembers cannot be required to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of their employment. So, failing to promptly allow Stoner to resign his union membership and stop paying union dues constituted an unfair labor practice.
Moreover, ALJ Rosas found that upon receiving Stoner’s resignation and dues deduction authorization revocation, UAW Local 600 Financial Secretary Mark DePaoli “decided to sit on it for a while” instead of providing a timely notice to Ford about Stoner’s resignation and dues deduction authorization revocation. This resulted in Ford deducting dues from Stoner’s paycheck without authorization for an additional 10 weeks, which constituted an additional unfair labor practice under federal labor law.
DePaoli “provided a vague and less than credible explanation” for his failure to properly notify Ford to stop remitting dues to the union, Rosas explained, adding that DePaoli’s inaction represented “more than mere negligence.”
ALJ Rosas ruled that the dues deduction card that Stoner signed did not require workers to pay any dues or fees after resigning membership in the union. Union officials therefore had no legal authorization to accept any further dues deducted from Stoner’s wages after his resignation.
Under the ruling, UAW Local 600 must refund all dues taken from Stoner after his resignation, with interest. In addition, union officials must post notices at Ford’s Dearborn factory acknowledging that the union violated federal labor law and will honor all requests to resign union membership and cut off dues deductions.
“This decision in favor of Mr. Stoner is a victory for all Michiganders who wish to exercise their rights under the state’s Right to Work Law,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union bosses are officially on notice that they cannot continue seizing dues from employees after they resign their union membership.”
“Big Labor has consistently refused to acknowledge the rights of workers it claims to represent, requiring Foundation staff attorneys to litigate more than 100 cases for Michigan workers since the state’s Right to Work Law was passed in 2012,” added Mix. “As long as Michigan union bosses continue their forced unionism abuses, the National Right to Work Foundation will assist workers seeking to free themselves from these coercive tactics.”
U.S. Supreme Court Asked Again to Hear Case of Homecare Providers Seeking to Recover Seized Union Fees
Care providers ask High Court to overturn ruling denying refunds of $32 million in forced union fees seized from 80,000 providers in violation of First Amendment
Washington, D.C. (February 25, 2019) – Today, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Illinois homecare providers filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case in which providers seek the return of more than $32 million in union fees seized by SEIU officials in a scheme the High Court already declared unconstitutional.
The case, Riffey v. Pritzker, is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. In Harris, the Court ruled that a scheme imposed by the State of Illinois, in which more than 80,000 individual homecare providers were forced to pay union fees out of the state funding they receive, violated the providers’ First Amendment rights.
In 2014, the case was re-designated Riffey v. Rauner (now Riffey v. Pritzker) and remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not tens of thousands of providers who had not joined the union would receive refunds of the money taken from them unlawfully by the SEIU.
In June 2016, the District Court denied a motion for class certification. The ruling allowed the SEIU to keep more than $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from union nonmembers who had not consented to their money being taken for union fees. Foundation staff attorneys appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which also denied class certification.
In 2018, Foundation staff attorneys successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to review and reverse the Appeals Court’s ruling. The High Court did so the day after it issued the landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, ordering the Appeals Court to reconsider the case in light of the Janus ruling, which struck down public sector forced union fees as violating the First Amendment.
In Janus, which was argued by the same National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who is lead counsel in Riffey, the Supreme Court clarified that any union fees taken without an individual’s prior informed consent violate the First Amendment. That standard supports the Riffey plaintiffs’ claim that all providers who had money seized without their consent are entitled to refunds.
However, on December 6 a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court affirmed its previous ruling that no class can be certified for the more than 80,000 providers whose money was seized in violation of their First Amendment rights. The majority opinion, signed by two of the judges, denied class on the grounds that each individual homecare provider would have to prove that he or she objected to the taking of the fees when the seizures occurred.
In their petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear their case, the providers argue that Janus requires that the lower court’s class certification order be reversed. Foundation staff attorneys point out that the Janus precedent does not require a worker to prove his or her subjective opposition to forced union fees but held that the First Amendment is violated anytime union dues or fees are seized without clear affirmative consent.
Foundation attorneys argue that the case is of exceptional importance not only because it concerns the return of more than $32 million seized from some 80,000 homecare providers in violation of their First Amendment rights, but also because the lower courts’ ruling sets a precedent that could result in the denial of relief for millions of public employee victims of forced unionism.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but those individuals are forced to jump through legal hoops for years to reclaim their money that should never have been taken from them in the first place,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Riffey, these providers will be one step closer to relief in their fight to provide homecare – many to their own children in their own homes – without being forced to satiate union bosses’ greed.”
“Already the US Supreme Court has ruled for these providers twice in this case, now one more trip is necessary for the victims of this illegal union scheme to finally have their rights vindicated,” added Mix.
USC Verdugo Hills workers’ vote to oust union certified by Labor Board after union’s lawyers ignore rules to challenge outcome
Los Angeles, CA (February 15, 2019) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director in Los Angeles has rejected union officials’ objections to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital employees’ election to remove the union as their monopoly bargaining representatives. The NLRB Regional Director ordered that the result of the election, in which a majority of the workers voted to oust the union, be certified.
After Andrew Brown, a surgical buyer, and his coworkers at USC Verdugo Hills in Glendale, California, successfully held a decertification election to remove the unwanted Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU), union officials tried to challenge the employees’ 118-107 victory. However, the NLRB Regional Director ruled that SEIU officials failed to follow the proper procedures by not serving their objections on all parties, as required by NLRB rules.
Ironically, SEIU lawyers had blocked an earlier petition filed by Brown for a decertification election on the grounds that, although he followed the misleading language on the NLRB’s website, his petition was technically filed two days late.
In October 2018, Brown petitioned for a vote to remove the SEIU as monopoly bargaining agent for him and his coworkers. Despite having followed the NLRB website’s instructions on union decertification petitions, including collecting signatures from over 30 percent of his colleagues as required, union officials claimed Brown’s decertification petition was untimely.
Brown then sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to request a review. Foundation staff attorneys asked the NLRB to overturn the Regional Director’s decision and permit Brown and his coworkers to vote on whether to oust the union. Before an appeal of the decision to reject the petition as untimely could be ruled on by the NLRB, it was made moot by a subsequent petition for a decertification vote that was clearly timely under the Board’s rules.
The NLRB conducted a secret ballot decertification election in January, in which a majority of the workers voted to remove the union. After the SEIU’s objections were denied by the NLRB Regional Director as untimely, the Regional Director issued an order officially certifying the election results.
“We congratulate Mr. Brown and his colleagues on exercising their right to remove an unwanted union,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this vote would have taken place months earlier without the red tape and restrictions hindering independent-minded employees and tipping the scales in favor of union bosses’ gamesmanship. This shows that union officials should spend less energy trying to trap workers and instead focus on respecting the wishes and needs of the employees they claim to ‘represent.’”
Judge Rules Southwest Flight Attendant’s Federal Lawsuit Against Airline and Union for Illegal Firing Will Continue
Flight attendant was fired after voicing her religious and political beliefs, including opposition to union leadership and support of Right to Work
Dallas, TX (February 11, 2019) – A federal judge has ordered that Southwest Airlines flight attendant Charlene Carter’s lawsuit against her employer and a union will continue, ruling that Carter’s charges are sufficient to establish a case that she was fired for voicing her religious and political beliefs, including her support of a National Right to Work law.
Carter filed her lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys against Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) and Transport Workers Union of America (TWUA) Local 556. Although Southwest and TWUA Local 556 attempted to have her charges dismissed, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas has ruled that her lawsuit will continue.
As a Southwest employee, Carter joined TWUA Local 556 in September 1996. A pro-life Christian, she resigned her membership in September 2013 after learning that her union dues were being used to promote causes that violate her conscience, such as abortion.
Carter resigned from union membership but was still forced to pay fees to TWUA Local 556 as a condition of her employment. State Right to Work laws do not protect her from forced union fees because airline and railway employees are covered by the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA allows union officials to have a worker fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees. But it does protect the rights of employees to remain nonmembers of the union, to criticize the union and its leadership, and advocate in favor of changing the union’s current leadership.
Carter became a vocal supporter of a campaign to recall the TWUA Local 556 Executive Board, including its president, Audrey Stone.
Carter’s pleadings describe how, in the year leading up to the lawsuit, Southwest subjected 13 supporters of the recall campaign to disciplinary measures, including fact-findings, suspension, and even termination of employment, many times at the request of TWUA Local 556 members and officials.
The lawsuit alleges that, in contrast, when complaints were filed against the Executive Board’s supporters for their social media activity, including death threats, threats of violence, obscene language, and sexual harassment, those employees were either not disciplined or were allowed to keep their jobs.
In January 2017, Carter learned that President Stone and other TWUA Local 556 officials used union dues to attend the “Women’s March on Washington D.C.,” which was sponsored by political groups she opposed, including Planned Parenthood. Carter’s lawsuit alleges that Southwest knew of the TWUA Local 556 activities and participation in the Women’s March and helped accommodate TWUA Local 556 members wishing to attend the protest by allowing them to give their work shifts to other employees not attending the protest. Carter sent President Stone private Facebook messages sharply criticizing the union and its support for pro-abortion activity. President Stone never responded to Carter.
Shortly thereafter, in February 2017, Carter received an email from TWUA Local 556 urging her to oppose a National Right to Work Bill. Carter responded with an email to President Stone declaring her support for Right to Work and the Executive Board recall effort.
Days after sending Stone that email, Carter was notified by Southwest managers that they needed to have a mandatory meeting as soon as possible about “Facebook posts they had seen.” During this meeting, Southwest presented Carter screenshots of her pro-life posts and messages and questioned why she did them. Carter explained her religious beliefs and opposition to the union’s political activities. Carter said that, by participating in the Women’s March, President Stone and TWUA Local 556 members purported to be representing all Southwest flight attendants. Southwest authorities told Carter that President Stone claimed to be harassed by these messages.
A week after this meeting, Southwest fired Carter. Southwest said she violated its “Workplace Bullying and Hazing Policy” and “Social Media Policy,” because her pro-life Facebook posts were “highly offensive” and her Facebook messages to President Stone were “harassing and inappropriate.” Prior to her termination Carter had never received any discipline in her 20-year career with Southwest.
In 2017, Carter filed her federal lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the firing as an abuse of her rights, alleging she lost her job because she stood up to TWUA Local 556 and criticized the union for its political activities and how it spent employees’ money.
Southwest and TWUA Local 556 moved to dismiss her claims, but the federal district court ruled that Carter’s allegations establish “more than a sheer possibility” that union officials retaliated against her and that Southwest fired her for opposing union leadership and engaging in activities the RLA protects.
The Court also denied Southwest’s motion to dismiss Carter’s claim that Southwest discriminated against her religious beliefs in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, as Carter has established “more than a sheer possibility” that her religious beliefs and practices were a factor in Southwest’s decision to fire her. Carter also claims that TWUA Local 556 discriminated against her religious beliefs by complaining about her pro-life messages in order to get Southwest to fire her, but union officials did not ask the court to dismiss that claim.
“This case shows the extent to which union officials will wield their power over employers to violate the rights’ of the workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Charlene Carter merely voiced her opinion and opposition to her money being used for causes she opposes, expressing her protected religious beliefs.
“A victory in this lawsuit would send a strong message that this type of abuse of union monopoly power will not go unchallenged, but ultimately it is up to Congress to end Big Labor’s power to force its representation on workers who oppose it and then add insult to injury by forcing workers under threat of termination to pay money to a union they oppose,” added Mix.
Worker Advocate: Supreme Court Should Hear Case Over Wisconsin Right to Work Law’s Limit on Union “Window Period” Schemes
National Right to Work Foundation asks High Court to reconsider precedent blocking states from protecting workers’ right to cut off union payments
Springfield, VA (February 7, 2019) – The National Right to Work Foundation has submitted an amicus curiae brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a writ of certiorari in a case involving a union’s challenge to part of Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law that allows workers to cut off dues payments at any time with 30 days notice. The State of Wisconsin filed its cert petition in Allen v. International Association of Machinists in January asking the Supreme Court to take the case.
Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law, passed in 2015, makes union membership and dues payments strictly voluntary. That fundamental aspect of the law remains in effect after a separate union legal challenge to that aspect failed and is not part of the case that the Supreme Court has been asked to hear.
To ensure workers could exercise their Right to Work, a provision in the law allows employees to revoke their authorization for union officials to deduct union dues or fees at any time and requires that union officials stop these unauthorized deductions within 30 days. The provision protects workers from “window period” schemes often enforced by union officials to limit workers from revoking authorization for dues or fee deductions except for a few days annually.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that this part of the statute is preempted by federal law. The Seventh Circuit’s ruling relied on the Supreme Court’s Sea Pak v. Industrial, Technical, & Professional Employees decision issued in 1971, which the state of Wisconsin is now asking the High Court to revisit.
The Foundation’s amicus brief asks the High Court to review the Seventh Circuit’s decision because federal law allows Wisconsin to protect employees from forced payments, including from union-created limitations on cutting off dues.
As the amicus brief notes, Congress left the final decision about whether to permit, outlaw, or limit compulsory unionism to individual states under Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This includes allowing states to set a stricter standard for when union officials must halt unauthorized dues or fees deductions than the after one year maximum prescribed by the NLRA.
“Time and again, Big Labor has concocted ways to seize unauthorized dues and fees from workers’ wages through ‘window period’ schemes and other underhanded tactics,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The Foundation’s amicus curiae brief advances the widely accepted common-sense argument that Wisconsin and other states should be allowed to create additional protections for workers from compulsory unionism.”
Michigan Civil Servants Successfully Halt Union Bosses’ Harassment and Illegal Demands for Coerced Union Dues
MEA union officials quickly settle: rather than litigate, union will recognize workers’ union membership resignations and stop threats over union dues
Lansing, Michigan (February 5, 2019) – A federal class action lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for two Michigan public school employees against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) has ended in a settlement. Thanks to the settlement, the workers are now free from years of MEA officials’ harassment over forced union dues that the workers did not owe.
Plaintiffs Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams, who both worked for the Port Huron Area School District, filed against the MEA after union officials spent years attempting to obtain union membership dues from the two workers even though they were not union members.
Gervais and Williams exercised their rights by resigning their union memberships in September 2013, approximately nine months after Michigan enacted Right to Work legislation that protects workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Despite the resignations and the statute, MEA officials continued to demand that they pay dues for a period after their resignations.
As part of the MEA campaign to collect the dues, union agents contacted Gervais and Williams dozens of times demanding hundreds of dollars’ worth of back dues that the women were under no legal obligation to pay. Union agents even threatened to take both women to small claims court for their failure to pay the demanded fees.
MEA officials claimed that Gervais and Williams missed the “window period” to cut off union payments. However, in a 2014 case brought by Foundation staff attorneys, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) decision striking down that “window period” scheme as illegal under Michigan’s public sector Right to Work law.
Gervais and Williams sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the union officials’ demands. Their lawsuit applied the protections under the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Foundation-won case Janus v. AFSCME.
The landmark Janus decision ruled that a union violates the First Amendment by demanding or coercing public employees to pay union dues or fees without their explicit consent. Citing that ruling, Gervais and Williams’ federal class action lawsuit sought an end to the unions’ demands, for themselves and other workers who faced, or continue to face, similar demands, along with refunds for all workers who paid the dues MEA agents illegally demanded.
Rather than face National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in court, the MEA entered into a settlement under which the union will recognize and accept the two workers’ resignations and will cease demanding and attempting to collect union membership dues. Additionally, MEA officials will stop demanding union dues from all other individuals who notify them within twelve months of the settlement that they resigned their union membership after Michigan’s Right to Work Law took effect on March 28, 2013.
Michigan employees who labored under the monopoly bargaining representation of MEA and who believe they may be covered by the settlement are encouraged to contact the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in exercising their rights at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid or by calling the Foundation toll-free at 1-800-336-3600.
“This is a great example for other workers who are victims of Big Labor’s coercive tactics,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As the union bosses’ attempt to counteract Michigan’s Right to Work law demonstrates, although union membership and financial support is voluntary under the law, that doesn’t mean Big Labor will obey that law. Thankfully, armed with the Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision, Linda and Tammy successfully halted this multi-year campaign of illegal dues demands for themselves and countless other educators.”
Since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Right to Work legislation into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan to combat compulsory unionism. Foundation staff attorneys are also pursuing dozens of other cases across the country since the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus.
Michigan Workers Pursue Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charges against Unions for Illegal Dues Seizures
Grand Rapids worker files NLRB charge against Teamsters, while Dearborn worker wins settlement with Ford Motor Company in ongoing case with UAW
Grand Rapids, MI (January 29, 2019) – A Michigan worker has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys because his employer has continued unlawfully deducting union dues from his paycheck for union officials, even after he instructed the union to cease taking dues from his wages.
Parnell White, employed as a driver by Head Start of Kent County in Walker, Michigan, sent a letter to International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 406 in Grand Rapids, resigning his union membership and revoking his authorization for Teamsters union officials to deduct any further union membership dues.
The letter was received by union officials on November 27, 2018, during the union’s prescribed annual 15-day “window period” to revoke dues authorization. However, the union refused to acknowledge his letter, and dues continue to be taken out of White’s paycheck and received by union officials without his permission.
White’s charge alleges that the union officials’ actions violate his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Those illegal actions are preventing him from enjoying the protections of Michigan’s Right to Work Law which prohibits union officials from forcing workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
This charge is similar to another ongoing case in Dearborn, Michigan. There Lloyd Stoner filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and his employer, the Ford Motor Company, with free legal assistance from Foundation staff attorneys.
UAW union officials refused to acknowledge Stoner’s March 2018 request to stop all deductions of union dues from his paycheck. Instead, his employer continued to take union dues from his hard-earned wages and continued sending the dues to the union.
Earlier this month, Stoner won a settlement with Ford Motor Company, although the charge against UAW is still outstanding. Along with other conditions, Ford will refund any outstanding deducted dues with interest to Stoner. The company also must post public notices to employees informing them of their rights to abstain from supporting union activities. The case against the UAW continues.
“Union officials have repeatedly refused to respect workers’ legal rights in the Great Lakes State, as demonstrated by the more than 100 cases workers have filed in Michigan since Right to Work was enacted there six years ago,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Rather than win the voluntary support of rank-and-file workers, in their efforts to stuff their pockets Michigan union bosses continue to systematically violate the rights of the very workers they claim to represent.”