Shamrock Foods Driver Asks Labor Board to End “Successor Bar” Policy Blocking Workers’ Right to Remove Unwanted Union
Appeal: Workers should not be trapped in union ranks and denied decertification votes when employer changes
Boise, ID (July 30, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Idaho-based Shamrock Foods delivery driver Curtis Thomason is appealing a decision by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 27 which dismissed a petition signed by him and a majority of his coworkers for a vote to remove Teamsters Local 483 union bosses from power at his workplace. Thomason’s appeal asks the full NLRB in Washington, D.C., to overturn the so-called “successor bar” doctrine, which blocks employees’ right to hold a vote to decertify a union for up to a year if a successor employer has recently taken over operations in a workplace.
According to the decision by Region 27, Shamrock Foods acquired operations in October 2019 at the two warehouses where Teamsters Local 483 union bosses held bargaining power. Shamrock began bargaining talks with Teamsters officials in December 2019. Thomason submitted a petition for a decertification vote signed by well over the threshold of employees necessary to initiate such an election on May 26, 2020. At that point, Shamrock Foods and Teamsters officials still hadn’t finalized a monopoly bargaining contract, and hadn’t even discussed economic terms of a contract.
Region 27’s decision ruled that Thomason and his coworkers’ petition, because it was submitted “within six months of the first bargaining date” between Shamrock Foods and Teamsters officials, should be blocked by the “successor bar.” This policy does not appear in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that the NLRB is charged with enforcing, but is instead the product of decisions by prior NLRB majorities favoring union bosses.
Thomason’s Foundation-backed appeal argues that the “successor bar” arbitrarily curbs employee free choice just to protect union officials from being ousted, saying “the successor bar is designed to protect incumbent unions and exalt their interests over Mr. Thomason’s and his co-workers’ free choice rights.” It also points out that “the successor bar’s paternalistic notion that employees suffer ‘anxiety’ in all corporate reorganizations, and are therefore incapable of deciding for themselves whether the incumbent union is worth keeping, is fatuous.”
In April, following several rounds of comments from the Foundation, the NLRB issued final rules substantially eliminating three other non-statutory policies that union bosses often manipulate to bar workers from exercising their right to vote out unpopular unions. Among the policies nixed was one that allowed union bosses to file “blocking charges” containing unrelated allegations of employer misconduct to block secret-ballot employee votes on whether to oust a union. NLRB regional offices often block employee votes following a “blocking charge” without even a hearing into whether the supposed employer conduct and employees’ disaffection with the union are linked.
“It is ridiculous that the NLRB has let union bosses block employees’ right to a secret-ballot vote on whether or not a union deserves to stay in power at their workplace based merely on a change in employers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “If anything, changes in ownership of a company should be automatic grounds for a decertification vote, because to the extent there was ever support for the union it was to deal with the previous employer, not the new ownership.”
“We urge the NLRB in Washington to immediately overturn this anti-worker ‘bar’ policy and ultimately do away with all non-statutory policies which stifle the right of rank-and-file workers to freely decide who their voice will be in the workplace,” Mix added.
National Right to Work President Encouraged by NLRB Proposed Rule Protecting Workers’ Privacy in Run Up to Unionization Votes
Rule imposed by Obama NLRB forced employers to hand over employee private email and phone numbers to union organizers
Washington, DC (July 28, 2020) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced today proposed rulemaking regarding its election procedures. This proposal would eliminate a requirement imposed by the Obama NLRB in 2014 that employers must hand over workers’ private information to union organizers, including phone numbers and email addresses, even over the objection of individual workers.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented that the NLRB’s proposal is a needed safeguard for the privacy of employees, protecting them from union boss coercion:
“Today the NLRB takes a necessary step towards ending a gross invasion of workers’ privacy inherent in the Obama Board’s deeply flawed 2014 Ambush Election Rule. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has provided free legal aid to numerous workers victimized by union boss retaliation utilizing workers’ private information, cited the privacy issues with handing over employees’ personal private contact information both in opposition to the 2014 rule and again in 2018 comments to the new NLRB.
“The Board should resist any calls to delay or extend its rulemaking deadlines announced today so it can implement these common sense worker privacy protections as swiftly as possible.”
The ambush election rules were rushed out on December 15, 2014, the last day of former union lawyer Nancy Schiffer’s term on the NLRB. The NLRB had previously rushed the regulations out before former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) lawyer Craig Becker’s term expired in December 2011, but they were later invalidated by a federal district court in 2012 on procedural grounds.
In addition to submitting comments to the Obama NLRB opposing the rule when it was first announced in 2014, Foundation staff attorneys helped three construction workers whose privacy had been violated under the policy to join a lawsuit in April 2015 challenging it. Veteran Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman also testified before the US House of Representatives on the dangers of the policy in 2015.
Because union officials chose not to face employees’ will in secret-ballot vote, majority-backed employee petition asking Sysco to remove union stands
Oklahoma City, OK (July 27, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Sysco Oklahoma warehouse employee Henry Weilmeunster and his coworkers have successfully removed an unwanted Teamsters union from their workplace. The win comes after Teamsters union bosses backed down from their attempts to challenge the validity of a petition Weilmeunster and a majority of his coworkers signed asking Sysco to withdraw recognition of the union.
Weilmeunster and his coworkers achieved their victory by taking advantage of the rights won by Foundation staff attorneys in the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) 2019 Johnson Controls decision. In Johnson Controls, the NLRB ruled that an employer can withdraw recognition from a union if it receives a majority-backed employee petition opposing the union within 90 days of a monopoly bargaining contract expiring. Union officials then have a 45-day window to contest such a withdrawal of recognition, but only by filing for a secret-ballot vote among the employees in the workplace on whether the union should stay.
In December 2019, Weilmeunster submitted to the NLRB a petition requesting a secret-ballot vote to remove the union. Anticipating that union officials might file “blocking charges” against Sysco to derail his efforts to oust the union, Weilmeunster also gave a petition to Sysco asking that it withdraw recognition of the Teamsters union at the first available opportunity. Both requests were supported by a majority of his coworkers.
As Weilmeunster expected, Teamsters union officials filed “blocking charges” with the NLRB to challenge his decertification petition and stop any vote. Union bosses often use “blocking charges” to stop employees from exercising their right to remove them from workplaces. These abusive charges usually contain allegations of unrelated wrongdoing by the employer.
Though NLRB Region 14 officials in January at Teamsters officials’ behest blocked Weilmeunster and his coworkers’ request for a decertification vote, Sysco ultimately withdrew recognition from the Teamsters union based on the showing of majority employee support for withdrawal in Weilmeunster’s petition. Under Johnson Controls, Teamsters honchos had a 45-day window to file for a secret-ballot election to reinstall the union, but did not do so – apparently because they feared an election loss. With union officials’ blocking charges now settled or dropped, Sysco’s withdrawal of recognition stands unopposed and the workers’ request to be free of the Teamsters has been fully and finally honored.
“Although it’s certainly good news that Mr. Weilmeunster and his coworkers finally succeeded in removing an unwanted Teamsters union, it’s telling that union officials sought to use lawyers to trap workers in union ranks, instead of just requesting a secret ballot election to determine the employees’ wishes,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case demonstrates why Johnson Controls is important: Union bosses should not be allowed to maintain monopoly power over workers through legal maneuvering when there is clear evidence that a majority of workers want the union out of their workplace.”
Mark Mix in the Washington Examiner: Why We Should End ‘Anti-Democratic’ Government Union Boss Monopoly Bargaining Powers
An op-ed from National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix appeared in the Washington Examiner today which exposes the detrimental effects of monopoly bargaining privileges for government union bosses.
Mix explains that giving union officials the power to force workers under their so-called “representation” not only allows them to put a massive burden on taxpayers with wasteful contracts, but also stops the worst government employees from being held accountable for wrongdoing:
The problem with government unions protecting bad and dangerous workers is not isolated to police departments. In New York City, for instance, firing bad teachers has long been next to impossible. One teacher accused of sexual misconduct against students was “warehoused” for 20 years, collecting $1.7 million from taxpayers despite not setting foot in a classroom. Others continue to receive payments under similar arrangements as well.
Despite calls for reform, especially around police unions, most fail to address the central role played by government union monopoly bargaining power. So-called “collective bargaining” in the government sector is inherently anti-democratic. It forces officials elected to set public policy to “negotiate” that policy with a special interest group whose aims are frequently in direct opposition to the public’s interests. It also forces good civil servants to associate with union officials who will bend over backward to shield their corrupt or inefficient coworkers from any kind of accountability.
Read the full article here.
The Federalist Society just published an article by veteran Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman, which demonstrates how Selbyville, DE, Mountaire Farms employee Oscar Cruz Sosa and his coworkers’ effort to vote United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials out of their workplace now has the potential to abolish, or at least significantly limit, a longstanding restriction on worker rights at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Taubman first explains that the restriction, the “contract bar,” exists nowhere in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and arbitrarily stifles the free choice of workers:
“Under that Board-created doctrine, employees are forbidden from decertifying their incumbent union representative for as long as three years, simply because the union and employer have reached a collective bargaining agreement. The text of the NLRA is silent about such a bar limiting employees’ rights. Indeed, the only ‘bar’ Congress established in the NLRA is a one-year ‘election bar’ (no more than one valid election can be held per year), which is a far cry from the Board-created three-year contract bar…”
Taubman goes on to recount how UFCW lawyers kept claiming that the non-statutory “contract bar” should have blocked Cruz and his fellow employees from having the vote they petitioned for, even after a regional NLRB official had ruled against them:
“In the Mountaire Farms case, employee Oscar Cruz Sosa collected a petition from more than 30% of his fellow employees and filed it with the NLRB seeking an election. The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union responded by asserting that the election was barred by the contract bar, since the petition was filed in year two of a five-year agreement. However, the Director of NLRB Region 5 held that the compulsory dues clause in the contract was facially unlawful because it lacked a mandatory 30-day grace period, and therefore no contract bar applied.”
The union lawyers immediately requested that the NLRB in Washington review this decision and in fact expand the “contract bar” to apply even to their invalid contract. But, as Taubman says, Foundation staff attorneys countered that the NLRB should, if it decided to review the case, consider doing away with or significantly limiting the “contract bar.” And that’s just what the NLRB did:
“Alternatively, Mr. Cruz Sosa argued that if the Board granted the UFCW union’s Request for Review, it should take up the entire contract bar doctrine with a view towards overruling it or significantly shortening it.
“On June 23, 2020, the Board granted the Union’s request for review of the regional director’s Decision and Direction of Election, finding that it raised substantial issues warranting review…On July 7, 2020, the Board issued a Notice and Invitation to File Briefs, allowing the public to weigh in on the continuing viability of the contract bar doctrine.”
Read the whole piece here.
MEA Union Bosses Abandon Suit Against Ann Arbor Teacher, End Dues Demands Which Violate Michigan Right to Work
Settlement eliminates MEA officials’ unlawful demands for $3,000+ in dues, becoming latest teacher from school freed from union collection threats
Ann Arbor, MI (July 17, 2020) – Michigan teacher Deborah Wolter has just won a settlement in a case brought by Michigan Education Association (MEA) union lawyers against her. Union officials sued her earlier this year for allegedly not paying thousands of dollars in back dues, even though they had demanded these dues from her after she had resigned her union membership. Michigan’s Right to Work law ensures that any employee who refrains from formal union membership cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid to Wolter as she defended herself from the union boss suit. As a result of the settlement, MEA bosses are required to end their demands for dues payments, to update their records to reflect that Wolter is not a member of the union, and to not contact her further.
MEA bosses sued Wolter in January 2020, filing a complaint in a Michigan District Court claiming that Wolter owed more than $3,000 in dues that they had charged her since September 2014, and that she “did not resign membership with [MEA] prior to the accrual of the debt.” Wolter’s Foundation-provided attorneys countered that Wolter did not owe the MEA anything because she had a letter in her records which indicated she resigned her membership in August 2014. This made the union suit a blatant violation of Michigan’s Right to Work law.
With this settlement, Wolter is the latest teacher at her school to successfully stop illegal union demands for back dues with Foundation legal aid. Last year, Foundation staff attorneys won a victory for two other teachers at Wolter’s school who faced similar demands by officials of the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA), an MEA affiliate. In that case, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled AAEA 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.
These victories were preceded by a successful 2019 Foundation-won settlement for two other Michigan educators, Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams. Gervais and Williams, both from Flint, MI, sued the MEA in federal court for trying to seize dues from them even after they had resigned their union memberships. Union officials claimed they had missed a narrow “escape period” which limited when they could exercise that right, even though a 2014 decision of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) in another case brought by Foundation staff attorneys declared the union officials’ “escape period” scheme illegal under Michigan’s Right to Work law. As a result of the settlement in Gervais and Williams’ case, well over a dozen Wolverine State teachers have been freed from illegal MEA dues demands.
“Once again, a Michigan educator has successfully thwarted an attempt by MEA union bosses to continue to collect dues in blatant violation of Michigan’s Right to Work law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys have already brought more than 120 cases for Michigan workers since the state’s Right to Work law went into effect in 2013, and will file as many more as necessary to ensure that Wolverine State employees are fully protected from illegal union boss cash grabs.”
Ohio Union Bosses Back Down from Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Union Dues Scheme Designed to Block Workers’ Janus Rights
Settlement eliminates illegal restrictions, allows almost 30,000 Ohio government employees under AFSCME Council 11’s power to exercise Janus right to end dues deductions
Columbus, OH (July 14, 2020) – Ohio public employees have just won a settlement in their federal class-action lawsuit charging the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 11 union and the State of Ohio with enforcing illegal restrictions on their First Amendment right to cut off union dues deductions. The lawsuit was filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The lawsuit, brought by four state employees, challenged a union-created “escape period” dues deduction scheme as being unconstitutional under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the Court struck down mandatory union fees for public sector workers as an infringement of their First Amendment rights, and ruled that the government can only deduct union dues or fees with an individual’s affirmative and knowing consent.
The State of Ohio and AFSCME’s “maintenance of membership” policy blocked workers from exercising their right to end union dues deductions except for a brief escape period that opened roughly once every three years at the expiration of the union monopoly bargaining contract. The AFSCME boss-created scheme was imposed by the State of Ohio on an estimated 28,000 Buckeye State public servants.
Now, as a result of the settlement, AFSCME officials and the State of Ohio have rescinded their “maintenance of membership” restriction on when state workers can exercise their First Amendment right to cut off union dues deductions. They also are required to honor requests to stop dues deductions from any employees who signed the AFSCME dues authorization form at issue in the lawsuit. Finally, the settlement requires AFSCME bosses to pay back dues seized illegally under the scheme to the plaintiffs and more than 150 other employees who tried to cut off union dues deductions after Janus was decided.
Seven other Ohio public employees won the first-in-the-nation victory against unconstitutional “escape periods” with Foundation aid in January 2019. These workers filed a class-action federal lawsuit challenging a similar policy created by AFSCME Council 8 bosses and won a settlement ending the restrictions for themselves and their coworkers. That win was followed by two other Ohio public workers, Connie Pennington and Donna Fizer, successfully ending “escape period” restrictions with Foundation assistance in 2019.
“Although this string of victories for Buckeye State public employees and their First Amendment rights is certainly encouraging, the widespread nature of these schemes shows there remains much work to do to force union bosses to end their unconstitutional restrictions on public employees’ First Amendment Janus rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost need to move quickly to stop violations of the First Amendment rights of all Ohio public sector workers and should cease collecting union dues from any worker who has not affirmatively consented to pay them.”
Swedish Medical Center Employee Appeals Case against SEIU Union to National Labor Relations Board General Counsel
Union officials “hid the ball” by failing to tell worker he had no obligation to pay union fees in absence of monopoly bargaining contract
Seattle, WA (July 7, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Swedish Medical Center employee Roger White is appealing his case against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199NW to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, D.C.
White filed federal charges against the union in April, asserting that union officials had continued to seize dues from his paycheck illegally even after twice attempting to exercise his rights to end union membership and as a nonmember pay only the portion of dues directly related to bargaining. He also argued that his second request to end membership and pay reduced dues should have actually stopped dues deductions completely, because at the time there was a strike going on and no contract in effect between Swedish Medical Center and SEIU 1199NW.
The appeal is from a decision by the NLRB Regional Director in Seattle, who claimed that SEIU officials were not obliged to inform White that he was not required to pay union fees during a contract hiatus. Foundation attorneys argue that the SEIU owed White a “duty of truth and honesty,” and decry the fact that the SEIU was able to “‘hide the ball’ and continue collecting dues” during the contract hiatus despite White’s clear “notice that he want[ed] to disassociate” from the union as much as possible.
Because Washington State has not enacted Right to Work protections for its employees, White and his coworkers can be forced to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment when a contract so requiring is in effect. However, the fee is limited by the Foundation-won 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision to only the portion of union dues that is directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions. Union officials must also follow certain Beck procedures before collecting such fees, such as providing workers an independent audit of the union’s expenses.
White’s appeal also points out that the Regional Director’s decision completely ignores a memo on this topic from the NLRB General Counsel. The memo states that private sector employees who can be legally forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment “have rights to…object to paying for activities not germane to unions’ representational duties, to revoke dues checkoff authorizations at certain times; and to receive the information necessary to make these choices.”
The appeal notes that SEIU 1199NW is “a repeat [National Labor Relations Act] violator.” Daniel Dalison, another Swedish Medical Center employee, also has federal charges against the union. Dalison filed charges against SEIU 1199NW in January 2020 asserting that union officials had never given employees “adequate notice of their rights under Beck” and had refused to stop all dues deductions when he revoked his dues checkoff authorization during the strike. Dalison and White both also filed charges in April asserting that SEIU 1199NW officials were maintaining a requirement that any worker who wants to obtain a copy of his or her dues paperwork must present a photo ID.
Yet another employee of Swedish Medical Center, NancyEllen Elster, won a settlement with Foundation aid against SEIU 1199NW bosses in October 2019. NLRB Region 19 had found merit in Elster’s charges that SEIU bosses had never given a proper Beck rights notice to employees, and had denied her request to pay the reduced dues amount under Beck.
“It is outrageous that NLRB Region 19 is allowing SEIU union bosses to get away with playing deceptive games with the employees they claim to represent, just to keep their hard earned money rolling into the union’s coffers illegally,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB General Counsel should direct Region 19 to prosecute the SEIU for keeping Mr. White and his coworkers in the dark about their rights. These cases demonstrate the abuses that inevitably occur when union officials are granted the power to force employees to subsidize their activities or be terminated from employment.”
Right to Work Foundation Backs Civil Service Commission’s Proposal Protecting Workers’ First Amendment ‘Janus’ Rights
Comments urge state agency to go further, ensure that employees know they have First Amendment right under Supreme Court decision to stop payments to union
Lansing, MI (July 6, 2020) – The National Right to Work Foundation submitted comments to the Michigan Civil Service Commission, supporting the Commission’s proposed move to nix the state’s current policy of using old dues authorizations to continue deducting union dues from public employee paychecks. The Commission proposes a system requiring the state to obtain consent from workers before taking dues from them every year.
The Commission’s slated rule was issued in response to the Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that all public employees have a First Amendment right to abstain from subsidizing union activities. In light of that ruling, the Foundation’s comments urge the Commission to go further to protect Michigan public servants’ Janus rights, and annually notify workers that they have a First Amendment right to stop dues deductions from their paychecks at any time.
In Janus, the High Court struck down mandatory union payments as violating the First Amendment rights of government employees. The Court ruled that any compelled payments to a union taken without a government worker’s affirmative consent violate the First Amendment. The Court further made it clear that this consent requires a clear and knowing waiver of First Amendment rights. Justice Samuel Alito also wrote for the majority that such a rights waiver “cannot be presumed” by state and union officials.
The Commission’s memo announcing its proposed rule change maintains that, in light of the Supreme Court’s mandate that employees must affirmatively opt-in to union dues payments, “ongoing deduction of fees based on old authorizations is problematic.” In contrast, requiring that the state receive positive approval from employees every year before deducting dues “ensure[s] both that employees know their rights and the validity of these authorizations.”
The Foundation’s comments agree with that reasoning, observing that the proposed rule will help ensure that “the Commission acts within the scope of its state constitutional authority by only authorizing union dues deductions from the wages of those employees who, knowing they do not have to pay, intelligently and voluntarily express their wish to pay those dues.”
However, the comments also point out that the Commission’s proposed language “does not fully notify employees of their constitutional right” to refrain from union dues payments “or the consequences of abandoning that right.” Consequently, they urge the Commission to modify the rule “to require that the notice expressly inform employees of their constitutional right…not to pay any union dues or fees and that authorizing such deductions waives that right.”
The Commission is accepting comments on the policy through July 6. The agency’s next meeting is scheduled for July 15, at which point it could take action to put the plan into effect.
Other states that are considering adopting similar policies include Texas and Indiana. The attorneys general of both states have issued opinions advocating reforms similar to those mentioned in the Foundation’s comments. In addition, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed an executive order instituting similar Janus protections for state employees last September.
Since the Janus decision, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 30 cases for workers seeking to enforce and expand the Janus victory. Since Michigan’s Right to Work law was passed, Foundation staff attorneys have also filed at least 120 cases for Michigan workers seeking to defend their rights under the law.
“The Commission is taking an important step to proactively protect the First Amendment right of government workers in Michigan, many of whom may have only authorized dues deductions before the Supreme Court recognized those rights in the 2018 Janus decision, with many likely signing such cards before the Wolverine State adopted Right to Work, when such payments were mandatory,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It is long past time that public workers nationwide should have had their Janus rights respected, and we urge all states to join the growing list of those who are taking the First Amendment rights of their public servants seriously and affirmatively protecting those rights.”