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.
Healthcare Worker Sues Teamsters Union and Healthcare Facility for Violating West Virginia Right to Work Law
Former Tygart Center employee says union officials and employer violated her legal rights by demanding she join the union and pay union dues and fees to keep her job
Fairmont, WV (December 24, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, healthcare worker Donna Harper filed a lawsuit against Teamsters Local 175 and the Tygart Center for violating her rights under the State of West Virginia’s Right to Work law.
West Virginia’s Right to Work law prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues or fees just to get or keep a job. In defiance of West Virginia’s Right to Work law, Tygart Center and Teamsters union officials entered into a collective bargaining agreement that required employees to pay union dues and fees as a condition of employment.
When Harper was hired, Tygart Center officials informed Harper that she must become a union member and pay union dues as a condition of employment in violation of her legal rights. Tygart Center officials deducted full union membership dues and fees from Harper’s paycheck and remitted this money to Teamsters union officials.
In March 2019, Harper successfully exercised her legal rights by resigning her union membership. Even then union officials continued taking union dues from her paycheck. Union officials also never fully refunded the union dues unlawfully seized from her wages.
Foundation staff attorneys filed the suit against the Tygart Center and the Teamsters union for Harper in Marion County Circuit Court. Harper worked at the Tygart Center from February 2018 until September 2019 as a Laundry Aide and as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Foundation staff attorneys also filed an amicus brief for Harper with the West Virginia Supreme Court defending the state Right to Work law against a protracted lawsuit brought by several unions seeking to overturn the law and restore union officials’ power to have workers fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees. That case is scheduled for oral arguments in the Supreme Court on January 15. That court has already rejected the unions’ arguments once, overturning a preliminary injunction against the Right to Work law.
“Teamsters union bosses demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law by illegally demanding Ms. Harper and her coworkers pay union dues and fees just to get or keep their jobs,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Contrary to Big Labor’s wishes, West Virginia’s Right to Work law is in full effect, meaning all union dues for workers covered by the law must be completely voluntary.”
Recently the Wall Street Journal published a piece by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix titled “Trapped by the Teamsters.”
The op-ed describes the numerous NLRB policies, doctrines and “bars” workers across the country face when merely attempting to hold a vote to oust Teamsters bosses and other union officials as their monopoly bargaining so-called “representative.” The article illustrates these coercive policies through recent examples faced by workers who have turned to the Foundation for free legal aid:
A majority of workers at a Wisconsin trucking company experienced this over the past two years. First, they were blocked from removing their union by the so-called voluntary-recognition bar. This stops workers from decertifying a union for up to a year after the union is installed through “card check”—a procedure that avoids the need for a secret ballot and makes workers vulnerable to union intimidation.
Then, after waiting a year for that bar to expire, the Wisconsin workers found they had been merged by Teamsters officials into a multicompany nationwide bargaining unit of about 24,000 workers. Suddenly the petition to oust the local union was 7,000 signatures short—for a workplace with fewer than 10 union workers. Last month the NLRB declined the Wisconsin workers’ appeal, though a majority of voting board members signaled they would revisit the “merger doctrine” policy in the future.
Other workers face other hurdles: The “settlement bar” blocks a decertification vote because of an NLRB settlement to which the workers weren’t a party; the “successor bar” blocks a vote for up to a year after a company is acquired; the “contract bar” blocks a vote for up to three years after a union contract is forged; and a “blocking charge” blocks a vote while union allegations against a company are pending. None of these are required by law.
The NLRB is addressing the voluntary-recognition bar and blocking charges through the current rule-making process, but the other policies are similarly destructive of workers’ legal right to vote out a union that lacks majority backing. Congress should act to protect workers from being trapped in union ranks they oppose, but in the meantime the NLRB has the authority to eliminate these barriers.
Union officials unable to win the support of a majority of the workers they purport to represent shouldn’t maintain power solely because of bureaucratic rules. Instead, whenever enough workers file a petition to remove a union they oppose, the NLRB should simply let them vote.
Read the whole piece here.
Flint-Area Nurse Hits Teamsters Union Bosses and Genesys Hospital with Lawsuit for Violating Michigan’s Right to Work Law
State court lawsuit: Teamsters union bosses and Genesys Regional Medical Center illegally rejected six different requests by nurse to end union dues deductions
Flint, MI (December 17, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Flint-area nurse Madrina Wells has sued the Teamsters Local 332 union, after union bosses illegally demanded she pay them union fees as a condition of keeping her job. Her employer, Genesys Regional Medical Center, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for seizing union fees from her paycheck at the behest of Teamsters officials. Wells’ lawsuit, filed in state court, says that both actions violate her rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law.
According to the complaint filed in Genesee County Circuit Court, Wells resigned her union membership in February 2018 and requested that Teamsters officials cease all dues deductions from her paycheck in December of the same year. Notwithstanding her request, Teamsters bosses sent her a letter in January 2019 demanding that she pay them nonmember “agency fees” after she returned from a stint on medical leave, which she had begun in December 2018.
Though a reduced amount of union dues is legally chargeable to private sector employees who abstain from formal union membership in non-Right to Work states, in Right to Work states like Michigan no public or private sector employee is required to pay any amount of union fees as a condition of employment.
When Wells resumed work in July 2019, the complaint notes, she sent Teamsters officials another notice “renewing her objection” to tendering any dues or fees whatsoever to the Teamsters hierarchy. Teamsters bosses again rebuffed her request, insisting that she was required to pay them a portion of union fees as a condition of employment.
According to the complaint, Teamsters officials subsequently demanded forced fees from Wells for July through December of 2019, all in clear violation of her rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law. Wells responded to each demand by reiterating her objection to the illegal fees, but submitted the fees demanded by Teamsters bosses under protest. On top of that, Genesys Regional Medical Center forcibly deducted the Teamsters’ so-called “agency fee” from Wells’ paycheck in August 2019, and seized the full amount of union dues from her paycheck in October.
Wells seeks a ruling from the Genesee County Circuit Court that will make Teamsters officials end all illegal dues demands and pay “damages and/or equitable restitution” to her for all the dues that they seized from her, plus interest.
Michigan has been a hotbed for litigation brought for workers with Foundation legal aid since the state enacted its Right to Work law in 2013. Recently, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for Port Huron-area public school employees Tammy Williams and Linda Gervais, ending dues demands made by the Michigan Education Association union (MEA) in violation of the Right to Work law. As a result of that settlement, more than a dozen teachers were freed from illegal dues demands.
“Once again Michigan union bosses have been caught shamelessly violating Michigan’s Right to Work law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in the Wolverine State since its Right to Work law was enacted, and will continue the fight until all Michigan workers can freely exercise their right not to fund unions with which they disagree.”