Two New Jersey teachers are challenging a state law that they called out as “un-American” during a recent television interview.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision in June declared that public employees should be allowed resign their union membership and stop paying union dues whenever they choose. But union officials blocked teachers Susan G. Fischer and Jeanette Speck from doing just that.
Fischer and Speck recently filed a class action lawsuit, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, after school district officials in the Township of Ocean refused to allow them to stop paying union membership dues.
During an interview with NJTV, a PBS affiliate based in New Jersey, Fischer clarified that she is not opposed unions. Instead, Fischer said that she and Speck filed their lawsuit out of a sense of basic fairness.
“I am not anti-union. I am a team player. I’ve been a teacher for 30 years,” Fischer explained. She later added: “You have to pay if you join and pay if you don’t join. That was so un-American to us.”
School district officials had claimed that the teachers could only stop payments and withdraw during a 10-day “window period” every year.
Foundation staff attorney William Messenger explained that this “window period” scheme was allowed under a New Jersey law. Messenger said this “basically means for 355 to 356 days of every year, public employees in New Jersey can’t exercise their Janus rights.”
The lawsuit challenges the New Jersey law as unconstitutional under Janus. The High Court said that union bosses cannot force public-sector workers to pay union membership dues and fees, since this violates the First Amendment.
The teachers are suing New Jersey Governor Phil Murphey, the New Jersey Education Association, and the Township of Ocean Education Association, seeking a refund of membership dues forcibly taken after they resigned their union membership, as well as for all other public employees who attempted to resign following Janus.
Appeals Court Hears First Amendment Challenge to Washington Scheme Forcing Childcare Providers under Union “Representation”
Self-employed childcare providers are forced to associate with SEIU just to take care of low income children whose care is subsidized by the state
Seattle, WA (December 3, 2018) – Today, a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney will deliver arguments for a Washington childcare provider in Mentele v. Inslee, a case challenging forced union representation for businesses providing childcare to low-income families. The case will be argued before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington.
In the case, plaintiff Katherine Miller asks the court to strike down a state requirement that she accept Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 as her monopoly representative. She argues the requirement violates her First Amendment right to freedom of association, citing the First Amendment standard laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in two National Right to Work Foundation-won decisions, Harris v. Quinn (2014) and Janus v. AFSCME decided in June.
Miller is jointly represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Northwest-based Freedom Foundation. Right to Work Foundation staff attorney Milton Chappell will argue the case before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit.
Washington state statute provides childcare subsidies to about 7,000 low-income families in Washington. Childcare providers, including self-employed individuals and small business owners, are classified as “public employees” to force them under the SEIU’s monopoly representation. Originally, childcare providers were forced to fund union activity. The Harris decision struck down the forced fee requirement, but now Miller – who provides childcare for low-wage families that qualify for subsidies – is asking the court to strike down forced representation as well.
Foundation staff attorneys have brought lawsuits for individuals in other states subject to similar forced unionism schemes, including the Bierman v. Dayton case filed for a group of Minnesota homecare providers also forced under SEIU monopoly representation. Following a Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year, a petition for the U.S. Supreme Court to review Bierman is expected to be filed by a December 17 deadline.
“This case and others show what lengths union bosses will go to impose their forced unionism onto workers, even going so far as to classify thousands of self-employed workers and small business owners as ‘government employees,’ subject to their representation,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation who is in Seattle for the arguments. “Although forced dues represent the most visible injustice of compulsory unionism, the root of Big Labor’s coercive powers has always been union officials’ ability to force individuals under the union monopoly against their will. It’s long past time that courts apply the First Amendment to these forced representation schemes and strike them down to protect the freedom of association.”
Immediately after the Mentele case is argued, the court will hear arguments in Fisk v. Inslee, another case jointly litigated by National Right to Work Foundation and Freedom Foundation attorneys. That case seeks to stop SEIU officials from continuing to collect union dues from Washington providers without their consent, and argues that such dues seizures violate the Supreme Court’s recent Janus ruling prohibiting mandatory union payments.
NLRB Urged to Use Rulemaking to Eliminate All Board-Created Policies that Block Workers from Ousting Unwanted Unions
National Right to Work Foundation letter asks Board to address all non-statutory “bars” to decertification votes that trap workers in unions that lack majority support
Washington, DC (December 3, 2018) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation submitted a letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking the Board to expand the scope of upcoming rulemaking to address several Board-invented doctrines that block employees from exercising their right to vote whether to remove union representation under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
According to statements Board Members recently made at an American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Conference in San Francisco, the NLRB intends to use rulemaking this winter to address two policies that restrict workers’ right to vote out union officials’ unwanted representation: the “blocking charge” policy and the “voluntary recognition bar” doctrine.
The letter from Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse recognizes that the Board’s decision to address those two policies that have restricted workers’ rights for years is a good first step. However, it adds that Foundation staff attorneys believe that the Board should address all “bars” and “blocks” on employees’ right to hold elections to remove unwanted union representation which are not established by the NLRA itself, because they improperly obstruct employees from exercising their free choice rights guaranteed by that statute.
“Blocking charge” policies allow union officials to file unfair labor practice charges to block employees’ petitions to decertify unions, even when a majority of unit employees sign a petition. The “voluntary recognition bar” rule prevents workers’ attempts to hold secret ballot votes to decertify a union for at least a year, and potentially up to four years, after union officials force workers into union representation via a coercive card check drive.
The letter urges the Board to also address all of the other doctrines created by past Board Members that restrict workers’ right to hold decertification elections, highlighting three other “bars” that should be eliminated. The “successor bar” blocks workers from decertifying a union for an indefinite amount of time after the previous employer has been replaced by a successor. The “settlement bar” rule prevents workers from removing an unwanted union after a settlement agreement between a union and their employer. The “contract bar” restricts when workers can file decertification petitions to a narrow window of time that may occur only once in three years.
As the letter and the Foundation’s formal comments concerning the Obama Board’s “ambush election” rules filed with the NLRB earlier in the year point out, none of these bars are authorized by the statute. Moreover, all undermine workers’ rights under the NLRA by allowing union officials to maintain monopoly representation powers even when a majority of the workers they claim to represent oppose union representation.
“These restrictive doctrines have granted power to union bosses at the expense of the rights of the employees whose choice the National Labor Relations Act purports to protect,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Each of these Board-invented doctrines actively undermines the NLRA’s central premise by trapping workers in unions that lack the support of a majority of workers, which is why the announced rulemaking should eliminate all of these non-statutory barriers to holding decertification votes.”
Workers Sue National Labor Relations Board Over Rule Blocking Them from Exercising Right to Remove Union
Lawsuit: School bus drivers’ petition for a decertification election was blocked under “settlement bar” doctrine in violation of the National Labor Relations Act
Pittsburgh, PA (November 28, 2018) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, two Pennsylvania school bus drivers have filed a federal lawsuit against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after the Board blocked their petition to hold an election to remove an unwanted union from their workplace.
Marcia Williams and Karen Wunz, employed by Krise Transportation, filed their complaint at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Their lawsuit challenges the NLRB’s “settlement bar” rule, which blocks employees in a union monopoly bargaining unit from holding a secret ballot election to decertify the union before an NLRB-mandated period of time after the settlement agreement date. The complaint asserts that the rule violates the workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
In March 2018, Krise and Teamsters Local 397 entered into a settlement agreement in an unfair labor practice case. The agreement included a clause that barred workers from challenging Teamsters Local 397 union officials’ monopoly bargaining status for a year after the officials’ first bargaining session with Krise. Williams and Wunz were not parties to the agreement.
In May 2018, Williams filed a petition with the NLRB to decertify Teamsters Local 397. Out of the total 28 Krise employees, 24 employees signed the petition to oppose union officials’ representation. However, the NLRB Regional Director blocked their decertification petition using the “settlement bar” rule. Williams requested that the NLRB review the Regional Director’s decision, but the NLRB upheld the dismissal and blocked the employees’ decertification petition.
Williams and Wunz are represented free of charge by Foundation staff attorneys in their attempt to free themselves and their co-workers from unwanted Teamsters union “representation.” Their complaint explains that the NLRA requires the Board to investigate any petition in which an employee alleges that a union no longer commands a majority of the workers’ support, and that if a question of representation exists the Board must direct a secret ballot election.
The complaint alleges that the NLRB’s “settlement bar” rule conflicts with the clear text and plain meaning of the NLRA, as it blocks Williams, Wunz, and their coworkers from raising a question concerning representation and forces them to submit to the monopoly bargaining privileges of a union they oppose. Foundation staff attorneys argue that nothing in the NLRA grants the Board the authority to issue a rule barring employees even for a “reasonable time” from raising a question concerning representation, “let alone a rule based merely on the employer’s settlement of unfair labor practice charges to which the employees were not parties.”
Williams and Wunz ask the court to declare the NLRB’s “settlement bar” rule a violation of the Board’s Congressionally-delegated authority and to order the Board to move forward with their decertification petition.
“The National Labor Relations Act is premised on union officials only being granted monopoly bargaining status when they have the support of a majority of the workers they claim to represent. Yet inexplicably the NLRB has concocted several rules that undermine the Act by blocking workers from voting out unwanted representation,” commented Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Such doctrines have been restricting workers’ voices for far too long. Ms. Williams and Ms. Wunz are standing up to challenge the Board’s union boss-friendly practices, and the Foundation is proud to join them to challenge this policy that directly contradicts their rights under federal labor law.”
Park MGM Bartender Wins Back Pay After Being Illegally Fired Because of UNITE HERE Union “Pour Card” Scheme
Labor Board settlement reinstates worker to position with seniority and provides $5,000 in back wages following NLRB unfair labor practice charges
Las Vegas, NV (November 27, 2018) – A Park MGM casino bartender has won a settlement from Park MGM and Bartenders Union Local 165 officials after she filed federal unfair labor practice (ULP) charges. Bartender Natalie Ruisi, who was fired for not having a union “pour card,” is receiving $5,000 in back wages and being reinstated as a result of the settlement.
With free legal assistance by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Ruisi filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Park MGM, formerly Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, and Bartenders Union Local 165, affiliated with UNITE HERE International Union. Aramark, the contractor who hired Ruisi, was also charged and agreed to the settlement.
In addition to paying $5,000 in back wages, the settlement required Aramark and Park MGM to reinstate Ruisi to her previous position with her original seniority. Union officials further agreed not to process any grievances from other workers who might challenge Ruisi’s position on the seniority list.
After Ruisi was hired in November 2016, Aramark management informed Ruisi that UNITE HERE union officials would represent all employees at the Park Theater, located at the casino.
Ruisi and a number of her co-workers were fired on January 12, 2017. Ruisi was told that she and her co-workers were terminated because they did not possess a “union pour card.” The bargaining agreement required bartenders, even those who work for subcontractors, to acquire a “pour card” that could only be obtained through union officials at significant expense to workers who exercised their rights under federal law and state law to refrain from joining and financially supporting the union.
When Ruisi was hired, a union card was not a requirement or condition of employment, and Ruisi was never even given the opportunity to acquire a union card. Moreover, Nevada’s longstanding Right to Work law makes it illegal for any employee to be forced to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
“This victory for Ms. Ruisi serves as a warning to Las Vegas union bosses that union-only ‘certification’ schemes to undermine Nevada’s Right to Work law will not be tolerated,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Nevada’s Right to Work law means every employee in the state can choose individually whether or not to join and pay dues to a union. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe countless other Las Vegas workers have been similarly victimized.”
Workers can contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid by calling 1-800-336-3600, emailing email@example.com, or through the Legal Aid Request form on its website: www.nrtw.org
Lawsuit challenges two public sector unions’ “window period” schemes as violation of the First Amendment under Supreme Court’s Janus decision
Portland, OR (November 20, 2018) – A group of Oregon public employees have filed a federal class action complaint against two public sector unions and their employers. The lawsuit seeks to end union officials’ “window period” policies that block thousands of workers from exercising their constitutional right under the U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision to refrain from financially supporting a union.
The case was filed at the United States District Court for the District of Oregon by ten public employees with free legal representation from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Freedom Foundation. The lawsuit names as defendants Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union; American Federation of State, Local, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 75; and the employers who continue to extract money from the workers’ wages under the “window period” policies without the workers’ consent.
After the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, briefed and won by Foundation staff attorneys, held that public sector workers cannot be forced to pay union fees without their affirmative consent, each plaintiff employee resigned his or her union membership and notified the union and their employer that they no longer authorized deductions of union dues and fees from their paychecks.
However, union officials refused to allow the workers to stop paying union dues. Instead, union officials informed them that they could only stop payments during a short annual “window period” of just a few days. Despite the workers’ asserting their rights under Janus, the government agencies continue to deduct union dues from their wages at the unions’ behest.
The case challenges the union officials’ “window period” policies as a violation of the First Amendment. In the landmark Janus decision, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from those workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right to refrain from financially supporting a union.
The class action lawsuit argues that the workers’ deduction authorizations signed before Janus were not and could not have been knowing waivers of their First Amendment rights, as the Janus protections had not been recognized at the time. The suit also argues that the unions’ policies restricting workers’ First Amendment rights to a window of time is unconstitutional.
The complaint asks that the court certify classes to include all employees under the monopoly bargaining contracts of SEIU Local 503 and AFSCME Council 75 who were blocked from exercising their First Amendment rights when they resigned union membership and attempted to halt dues deductions after the Janus decision. Only the union officials know the exact number of employees who have attempted to but have been blocked by the policies, but the classes potentially include hundreds or thousands of victims.
“These public sector workers join many others across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercive tactics,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues, and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights. The Foundation’s victory in Janus at the Supreme Court provided much-needed protection, but as this case shows union bosses are now defying the Supreme Court to continue their abusive practices.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed similar class action lawsuits enforcing the Janus ruling across the country, and are receiving more calls from workers seeking to exercise their rights under the Janus precedent. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
National Right to Work Foundation Celebrates Kentucky Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Bluegrass State’s Right to Work Law
Frankfort, KY (November 15, 2018) – Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the Commonwealth’s popular Right to Work statute, ending the spurious Big Labor-funded effort to resume the forcing of workers to pay union officials just to keep their job.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement in response to the decision:
“Although hardly a surprise, today’s ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court is great victory for Kentucky workers, as the Court rejected a desperate attempt by union bosses attempt to re-impose their power to have a worker fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to a union they oppose. The Commonwealth’s Right to Work law simply protects workers’ freedom to choose and ensures that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary. It is no surprise that Right to Work in Kentucky has led to billions in economic investment and thousands of new jobs statewide and today’s decision means that, despite the wishes of Big Labor, Kentuckians will continue to reap the benefits that come with protecting workers’ rights.”
Nebraska Worker Files Federal Charges Challenging Teamsters Officials’ “Window Period” Scheme Obstructing Right to Stop Dues Payments
Unfair labor practice charge with federal labor board says Teamsters union illegally limited worker’s right to stop seizure of dues
Omaha, NE (November 15, 2018) – Dairy industry worker Idalberto Jimenez Destrade has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against Teamsters Local Union 554 for the union officials’ scheme to block him from exercising his legal right to stop paying union dues after resigning his union membership. Destrade filed the charge at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Destrade works for Lala Branded Products in Omaha. He notified union officials in writing on September 21 that he resigned his Teamsters union membership and revoked authorization for further dues deductions.
Nebraska is one of 27 states with Right to Work laws that make union payments voluntary. Nebraska adopted Right to Work provisions in 1946, among the first states to do so in the country.
Despite Destrade’s request, Teamsters union officials have continued to seize membership dues out of his wages. Union officials cited a union-created policy that arbitrarily limits a worker’s right to end dues payments to just 15 days.
Union officials responded to Destrade in a letter sent on October 24, acknowledging that they had received his request, but that he had missed the 15-day “window period” to revoke his dues check-off authorization between October 5 and October 20. Teamsters officials rejected Destrade’s request to revoke his checkoff authorization because it arrived prior to this so-called “window period.”
However, because union officials waited until just days after their “window period” had ended to provide Destrade with this information, he was then too late to revoke according to the union policy.
The charge alleges that union officials coerced and restrained Destrade from exercising his rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act and seeks legal relief for Destrade and all similarly affected workers subject to the same illegal union policy.
“Union bosses repeatedly resort to so-called ‘window period’ rules to block workers from resigning their union membership and stopping forced-dues deductions,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Even in Right to Work states, Big Labor has a long history of utilizing underhanded tactics to deny workers their legal rights and to seize part of the hard-earned wages of workers like Mr. Destrade.”
Foundation staff attorneys have pursued numerous other legal actions for workers across the country after union officials used similar union-enacted “window period” schemes to deny workers’ requests to resign their union membership and stop paying union dues.
Hospital Employee Challenges “Contract Bar” and Other Restrictions on Employees’ Right to Hold Vote to Oust SEIU Union
NLRB board agent: wrong to rely on NLRB website for advice
Washington, D.C. (November 15, 2018) – Today, a hospital employee in California filed a Request for Review with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C. to overturn a Regional Director’s decision to invalidate his petition to remove the SEIU union from his workplace with a secret ballot vote. The worker, Andrew Brown, received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys in filing his Request for Review.
In October, Brown, a surgical buyer at USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, California, petitioned for a vote to remove the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – United Healthcare Workers West union 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 Mr. Brown’s decertification petition was untimely.
In a decision dated October 25, the Director of NLRB Region 31 in Los Angeles agreed with the union. She held that the NLRB’s “contract bar” rules, with their confusing “window periods” that limit when employee petitions can be filed – 60-90 days before a contract expires in most workplaces but 90-120 days in healthcare settings – governed. The director held that Brown’s petition was two days late under these confusing rules. She also ruled that he was wrong to rely on the NLRB’s website for advice on calculating his filing dates. Brown, who did not have an attorney at the time, had followed instructions on the NLRB’s website and actually waited to file his petition based on what he understood was the first day he was allowed to do so.
The Request for Review asks the NLRB to overturn the Regional Director’s decision and permit Brown and his coworkers to vote on whether to oust the union. Brown not only argues that the decision to block his vote misapplied existing NLRB policies, but also asks the NLRB to end the existing policy restricting decertification petitions to a limited 30-day window.
In the Request for Review, Brown and his Foundation staff attorneys argue that the so-called “contract bar” rule is contrary to the stated purpose of the National Labor Relations Act which the NLRB is charged with administering, because the rule results in workers trapped in union monopoly ranks even when a majority of them oppose unionization. As Right to Work attorneys note, the “contract bar” is not authorized or even mentioned in the National Labor Relations Act.
The Request for Review also argues that the petition for a vote should be processed because Brown followed the advice on the NLRB website as best he could and still missed the purported deadline by fewer than 48 hours. The Request for Review argues that arbitrary rules, such as the “contract bar” rule cited by union officials to block Brown’s petition, create contradictory and confusing guidelines for rank-and-file workers to follow, and allow union officials to game the system to prevent workers from escaping from forced unionism ranks, even when a significant majority would vote a union out.
“It’s long past time for the NLRB to fundamentally reform its arbitrary rules used to trap workers in union forced dues ranks, even when a majority of workers oppose unionization,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The so-called contract bar, like the other arbitrary limitations that are used to stop workers from even holding a vote to oust an unpopular union, has no basis in law—it’s simply a relic of past NLRB bureaucrats who put the power of union bosses ahead of the rights of workers that the National Labor Relations Act is supposed to protect.”