Worker Advocate Urges Federal Labor Board to Simplify Process for Workers to Vote Out Union Representation
National Right to Work Foundation asks National Mediation Board to eliminate confusing ‘straw man’ decertification rules for airline and railroad workers
Washington, D.C. (April 1, 2019) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has submitted comments to the National Mediation Board (NMB) supporting the agency’s proposed simplification of the rules enabling workers in the airline and railway industries to vote to remove a labor union that lacks the support of a majority of workers.
The NMB, which administers the Railway Labor Act (RLA), is currently considering rulemaking to modernize and update the rules for workers seeking to hold a vote to strip union officials of their monopoly bargaining powers. The process is particularly important since under federal law RLA unions can force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, even where state Right to Work laws protect other employees from forced union dues.
Longstanding legal precedent unanimously upholds that the RLA allows workers to choose their representative or no representative at all. However, NMB rules, in particular the current “straw man” requirement, make exercising this right inordinately complex.
The confusing rule forces an individual employee to run as a “straw man” union to replace the incumbent union as the monopoly representative. Once elected by a majority of the workers, the new “straw man” representative may then disclaim collective representation, but is not legally required to do so.
The Foundation’s comments to the NMB explain that the current “confusing and obfuscatory process” undermines both the letter and spirit of the RLA:
“The proposed rules are long overdue. Employee free choice is the RLA’s most significant policy, and the proposed rules are needed to ensure that all employees have an equal and fair choice regarding union representation. The Board has statutory authority to adopt the proposed rules, and should do so as soon as possible.”
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix also commented on the long overdue reform:
“This proposed change is a commonsense reform to the current process which only makes sense if the goal is to confuse workers about their rights to remove an unwanted union. Ultimately the Railway Labor Act has many fundamental problems that require legislative action, not the least of which is that it grants union bosses the power to have workers fired for nonpayment of union dues or fees even in states with Right to Work laws. However, while we wait action from Congress to fix those greater injustices, adopting this basic change within the confines of the flawed RLA is well worth doing.”
In addition to submitting the formal comments, veteran Foundation staff attorney Glenn M. Taubman testified at the NMB hearing on March 28 in favor of the proposed rule change.
Janus v. AFSCME case continues after union officials refuse to return forced fees ruled unconstitutional in landmark decision
Chicago, IL (March 27, 2019) – Attorneys for Mark Janus, plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, have asked a federal appeals court to order a refund union fees he was forced to pay while he worked for Illinois state government.
Janus worked for Illinois state government as a child support specialist from 2007 to 2018. Although he was not a union member, Janus was forced to pay thousands of dollars in “agency fees” to AFSCME, the government union at his workplace. With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, Janus challenged the practice of mandatory union fees in federal court, and won.
On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government workers cannot be required to pay union fees as a condition of working in public service, finding that mandatory union “agency fees” are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the District Court to determine, among other things, whether Janus is entitled to the approximately $3,000 in fees he was forced to pay since March 23, 2013.
“The Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to take union fees from public employees without their consent,” said Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center. “Mark, and other public employees like him, were harmed when unions unconstitutionally took their money. They are entitled to have that money returned.”
In addition to striking down the practice of mandatory union fees, the Court ruled that the First Amendment is violated when any union dues or fees are taken from public employees without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to financially support a labor union.
“As this case shows, even after a clear ruling by the Supreme Court that forced union dues violate the First Amendment, union bosses continue to use every trick in the book to keep the funds they seized in violation of the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It has been clear ever since the 2012 Knox v. SEIU decision that the Supreme Court was poised to rule that mandatory union payments violate the constitutional rights of public employees like Mark Janus, and it would be a massive injustice to deny the victims of that scheme the refunds to which the Supreme Court’s ruling makes it clear they are entitled.”
Janus’s appeal comes after a district court judge ruled earlier this month that union officials are not required to refund forced fees seized from nonmember workers before the Janus decision.
The Foundation has created a special website, MyJanusRights.org, to assist public employees in exercising their rights under Janus, which was successfully argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.
National Right to Work Foundation Staff Attorney Testifies at House Committee Hearing on Labor Law Reform
Testimony: Current labor law promotes forced unionism and is ‘antithetical to American values of free speech and free association’
Washington, D.C. (March 26, 2019) – A National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney will testify at a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing today, urging reform of current labor law that hinders American workers from exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Veteran Foundation staff attorney Glenn M. Taubman, who has represented hundreds of workers in cases before the NLRB and in federal court, will speak to the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions at its hearing on “The Need for Labor Law Reform.”
Taubman points out that, under current labor law, millions of private sector workers are forced to accept representation from a labor union, a private organization, whether or not they agree with the union and want its representation. Additionally, many workers are forced to subsidize a union under threat of losing their jobs.
In his statement, Taubman brings up several problems with current labor law that violate workers’ rights. He points out that “current law makes it easier for employees to form and join a union than it is for those same employees to decertify the union,” describing the plethora of red tape designed to block employees from removing a union the representation of which they no longer want.
He argues that forced dues and monopoly bargaining, also known as “exclusive representation,” violate workers’ rights to free speech and free association by forcing them to be represented by and pay fees to a private organization. Even in states with Right to Work legislation, which protects employees’ right to choose whether or not to subsidize a union, union officials impose obstacles to prevent employees from changing their minds and stop paying union dues.
Despite the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision that provides some protection for workers against being charged for political and certain other union expenditures, union officials have continued to collect forced dues for political activity. Taubman provided free legal aid to nurse Jeanette Geary in her landmark case, in which the NLRB ruled earlier this month (nine years after Geary first filed her case) that union officials can never charge nonmembers for lobbying expenses.
Additionally, Taubman urges reform of the standards for financial transparency as to how union dues are spent, citing recent examples of corruption and abuse of union funds. He also suggests the passage of several pieces of legislation to safeguard workers from compulsory unionism’s abuses, including the National Right to Work Act, which would give individual workers the freedom to decide whether or not to fund union officials’ activities.
“Changes to current labor law are long overdue, but the House Committee majority’s push to make it easier for workers to be forced into union ranks would move the law in the wrong direction,” commented Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “No American worker should be forced to surrender their workplace voice to a private organization, let alone be compelled to give chunks of their paychecks to union bosses for their unwanted so-called representation.”
“Reforms to federal labor laws are certainly long overdue, but what is needed is a reorientation towards voluntary unionism,” added Mix. “For inspiration, Congress should familiarize themselves with the voluntary principles promoted by AFL-CIO founder Samuel Gompers, who observed that compulsory systems are a menace to workers’ rights, welfare, and liberty.”
Teachers Win Case at Michigan Court of Appeals Against Union Officials for Violating Right to Work Law
Court affirms ruling against union officials who demanded that two Ann Arbor teachers continue to pay union fees after resigning union membership
Ann Arbor, Michigan (March 22, 2019) – Two public school teachers have won a victory at the Michigan Court of Appeals with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys after union officials violated their legal rights.
The court affirmed the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) finding that union officials with the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA) union, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, violated the rights of teachers Jeffrey Finnan and Cory Merante under Michigan’s Right to Work Law by demanding that they continue to pay union fees even though they had resigned their union membership. The teachers both worked for the Ann Arbor School District.
Michigan’s Right to Work statutes, which went into effect in March 2013, protect workers from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment and allow workers to cut off all union dues or fees after resigning their union membership.
Finnan and Merante each filed unfair labor practice charges against the AAEA because union officials demanded that they continue paying union fees after resigning union membership. An administrative law judge (ALJ) sided with the teachers, finding that union officials had engaged in unfair labor practices by demanding that the teachers continue to pay union fees.
MERC affirmed the ALJ’s findings and ordered the union to cease and desist from demanding payment of union fees from the nonmembers in violation of their rights.
Union officials appealed, but the Michigan Court of Appeals now has affirmed MERC’s decision. The court agreed that union officials had violated the rights of Finnan and Merante under Michigan’s Right to Work Law to refrain from financially supporting the union.
“This ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals upholds Right to Work protections for workers laid out clearly in state law,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Time and again, Michigan union bosses have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to obtain membership dues and union fees from the workers they supposedly represent, regardless of workers’ wishes.”
Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan to combat compulsory unionism.
Veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman appeared on a Federalist Society Teleforum call to discuss the sweeping NLRB decision in a nine-year-old-case brought by Rhode Island nurse Jeanette Geary.
Click here to listen to the discussion.
To learn more about the case, watch this update by Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
NLRB Decision: United Nurses & Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital)
City of Columbus Worker Brings Class Action Lawsuit Against Union and City to Halt Unconstitutional Forced Union Dues Scheme
CWA union officials claim workers can be forced to wait years until end of union contract before exercising First Amendment rights to stop dues payments
Columbus, OH (March 14, 2019) – A civil servant in Ohio has filed a federal class action lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys against Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4502 for violating her constitutional rights recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision by continuing to seize forced dues from her paycheck.
Connie Pennington, an employee of the city of Columbus, filed the lawsuit to challenge CWA Local 4502 union officials’ “escape period” policy that blocks her and hundreds of her coworkers from exercising their constitutional right under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision to refrain from financially supporting the union.
Pennington resigned her union membership and revoked her dues deduction authorization shortly after the landmark Janus decision. However, CWA union officials refused to honor her revocation, instead claiming that she could only stop union dues payments at the end of their collective bargaining agreement with her employer in May 2020, leaving her trapped in forced dues for the entirety of a union monopoly bargaining contract.
Faced with being forced to subsidize the union against her will for more than a year, Pennington sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Veteran Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, who argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court, sent a letter to CWA Local 4502 union officials for Pennington, reiterating her dues deduction revocation and explaining that a policy blocking her from exercising those rights violated the First Amendment. However, CWA officials continued to refuse to recognize her revocation and continued to deduct union dues from Pennington’s paycheck.
Pennington filed a class action lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys challenging the “escape period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when she can exercise her First Amendment rights under Janus and allows CWA Local 4502 officials to collect union dues without her affirmative consent. Her lawsuit argues that the “escape period” should be eliminated to allow her and other workers to exercise their Janus rights without restriction.
Pennington also seeks a refund of union dues forcibly seized after she had resigned her union membership, as well as for all other workers whose attempts to exercise their rights under Janus were blocked by the illegal policy.
In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that deducting any union dues or fees without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.
“Ms. Pennington joins many other public sector workers across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercion,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union officials have a long history of creating obstacles such as ‘escape period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues. This case shows that the National Right to Work Foundation must remain vigilant to protect government employees’ rights under Janus.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to public sector workers in over two dozen cases across the country to enforce the Janus decision. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
NLRB Issues Formal Complaint Against Union for Failure to Disclose Amount of Nonmembers’ Forced Fees
Unite Here union bosses already backed down from separate charge filed by Lewis & Clark College employee challenging illegal forced fees demands
Portland, OR (March 8, 2019) – After worker Terry Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges over forced union dues, Unite Here Local 8 union officials backed down from unlawfully billing nonmembers for union fees they did not owe. Moreover, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint in a separate case brought by Denton and a coworker against Unite Here Local 8 challenging the union’s failure to disclose the amount of reduced compulsory nonmember fees.
The complaint comes after a new memo issued by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, in which Robb says that union officials under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) should disclose the amount of nonmember fees to enable employees to make an informed choice between full membership dues and reduced compulsory fees.
Terry Denton works for Bon Appetit at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She and her coworkers are under the monopoly bargaining representation of Unite Here Local 8 union officials, who unionized the workplace in May 2017 via a coercive “card check” campaign, an abuse-prone process that circumvents the protections employees have under an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.
Denton and several of her colleagues are not union members. Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, nonmembers can be required to pay union officials in order to work. However, workers cannot be required to fund activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, lobbying, or organizing.
Denton exercised her right to object to paying full union dues and funding union activities beyond what can be required. However, Unite Here Local 8 officials demanded that she and similarly situated employees pay more than the reduced compulsory fee required to keep their jobs. Union officials sent her and other nonmembers bills for union fees for months already paid, months not worked, and/or amounts more than or equal to full union membership dues. Union officials threatened the workers that if they did not pay the amount demanded they could be fired.
To protect her rights, Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In the Foundation-won Beck decision, the United States Supreme Court provided some limited protection by holding that workers cannot be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity.
After Denton filed her charges with the NLRB in January 2019, Unite Here Local 8 backed down from their initial demands by waiving fee payments for all nonmembers until November 2018. Union officials then sent out new bills reflecting the new policy and crediting payments that Denton previously made.
Additional charges brought against Unite Here Local 8 are ongoing. In August 2018, Denton and another employee, Alejandro Martinez Cuevas, filed unfair labor practice charges alleging that Unite Here Local 8 violated their rights by failing to provide employees under their monopoly bargaining contract with sufficient information to allow the workers to make an informed decision about whether to object to paying full union dues. The notices provided to employees who had not yet objected failed to include the amount of the reduction in fees for employees who object to paying full union dues.
The NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, consolidating Denton’s and Cuevas’ charges, in light of General Counsel Robb’s new memo. The memo urges the NLRB to overturn a ruling made by the Obama NLRB in 2014 that held unions do not have to inform a new employee of the specific amount of nonmember compulsory fees until the worker decides to object to union membership and full union dues.
“Ms. Denton stood up to union bosses’ coercive attempts to take advantage of her and other employees through illegal demands on their hard-earned money,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this shows that stronger legal protections are critical for the future of Oregon’s independent-minded workers. Union bosses incessantly abuse their forced-fees privileges at the expense of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’”
“A clear ruling by the NLRB is needed to protect workers from Big Labor’s tactics, but ultimately Oregon needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and financial support completely voluntary,” added Mix.