Five Westerly, RI Reserve Officers Win Over $110,000 in Lawsuits Challenging Illegal Forced Union Dues Scheme and Retaliation
Settlements include reinstatement of two officers fired after publicly challenging unlawful “$5 per hour” forced union dues scheme
Westerly, RI (March 4, 2020) – Westerly, Rhode Island-based police officers Scott Ferrigno, Darrell Koza, Raymond Morrone, Anthony Falcone, and Thomas Cimalore have just won favorable settlements in their cases challenging a forced union dues scheme between police union bosses and Town of Westerly officials. The officers also won favorable settlements for retaliation claims they brought after publicly challenging the unlawful arrangement.
With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Rhode Island-based Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights, the five officers filed their federal lawsuit in July 2015 against the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 503 (IBPO) union and the Town of Westerly for seizing their money under an illegal “$5 per hour” forced union fee scheme.
The Town of Westerly and IBPO subjected the officers to this scheme despite them not being IBPO members or in a monopoly bargaining unit under the IBPO’s power. The officers’ now-settled cases also asserted that Town officials unconstitutionally retaliated against the officers, after they publicly voiced opposition to the policy, by implementing a plan to restrict their hours, and even firing two of the officers, Koza and Ferrigno.
Under the settlements, IBPO and the Town of Westerly agreed to pay almost $65,000 in refunds of union dues seized from the officers as part of the illegal policy and compensation for the officers’ other claims. The Town of Westerly will also reinstate Officers Koza and Ferrigno as police officers and they will receive nearly $48,000 in back pay from the Town for the period after they were terminated.
According to the lawsuits, IBPO bosses and the Town of Westerly began seizing $5 per hour from each of the five officers’ hourly pay without authorization in April 2014. IBPO and the Town perpetrated this scheme against the officers even though they were classified as “nonpermanent police officers” outside of the IBPO’s monopoly bargaining power.
Union officials didn’t even claim to “represent” the officers but still siphoned $5 per hour out of their paychecks without obtaining each officer’s written consent and authorization. The complaints also noted that the Town of Westerly and IBPO started seizing forced union fees from the officers even before executing the contract that formally established the unlawful deductions, and despite knowing that the officers were outside of the bargaining unit and had never authorized any payment of any money to the union.
Over the next six months, the officers repeatedly sought meetings with Town officials in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal dues, including the Town of Westerly’s payroll department, the Westerly Chief of Police, the Town Manager, and the Town Council, only to be rebuffed. Koza’s and Ferrigno’s lawsuits noted that Westerly’s Chief of Police had warned the officers “not to seek publicity for their cause” and that, if they were terminated, they could “easily be replaced with twenty other constables.” Court documents note that the IBPO informed the chief of police in an October 1, 2014 memo that the union would no longer allow reserve officers to work private duty detail assignments.
The Reserve Officers finally managed to present their objections to the Town Council, but the Town refused to stop the compulsory fees. On October 20, 2014, within a week of hearing that the reserve officers arranged a meeting with the Town Council to argue their objections to the forced fee scheme, the chief emailed the Town Manager informing her of his plan to terminate Koza and revise the system by which Westerly reserve officers could sign up to work traffic details. The chief revised the system and downgraded reserve officers’ priority level for taking on new traffic detail assignments, which, the five officers argued, limited the hours they could work and the pay they could earn.
Records disclosed during the litigation revealed that when the Town Council met with the Town Manager, chief of police, IBPO representatives, and other officials in November 2014, and discussed the reserve officers’ fight against the $5 per hour scheme and whether the Town might be in any legal jeopardy, one official opined, “It’s going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars … They’d have to take this money out of their pockets. I don’t think [their attorney] is going to represent them for free.” Another Town official at the time asserted, “If we say no, they’re probably going to back down.” When the officials considered whether the reserve officers would keep working for the Town, one council member commented, “They can always go to McDonald’s.”
In November 2014, the Westerly Sun published an article on the officers’ dispute with the Town and Union. The Town fired Koza the following month. Koza had never been disciplined by the Town before these events. But, according to Koza’s lawsuit, the Town attempted to justify his termination on the grounds that he had not immediately left his position directing traffic in a busy intersection to move his police cruiser for an officer attempting to drive through a restricted lane. The Town also cited Koza’s calling himself a “police officer” rather than a “reserve police officer” in his application for a handgun carry permit. Koza’s lawsuit points out that the Town’s charter then gave “nonpermanent police officers” like Koza the powers of regular police officers while on duty, and all of Koza’s references in his application called him a “reserve officer,” “reserve police officer,” and “reserve officer with the Westerly Police Department.”
The Town fired Ferrigno in May 2016. According to Ferrigno’s lawsuit, the Town alleged that he left a bicycle race detail assignment early. But Ferrigno contended that he actually stayed five minutes later than he was instructed to by his supervisor while waiting for his replacement to arrive. As further evidence that his firing was unconstitutional retaliation, Ferrigno’s lawsuit also noted that the officer who arrived late to relieve him was a union official, who was never even disciplined for his lateness.
The five officers filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, arguing that IBPO and Town of Westerly officials had violated their First Amendment rights by forcing them to financially support the union when they were not even covered by its monopoly bargaining contract. The officers’ lawsuit also alleged that Town officials seized union dues without their individual written authorization in violation of Rhode Island’s wage deduction laws.
The lawsuit contended that the Town’s retaliation infringed on the officers’ First Amendment right to engage in “constitutionally-protected speech,” namely their advocacy against the illegal dues deductions. Officers Koza and Ferrigno filed their own complaints in the same court, charging the Town with firing them for exercising their First Amendment rights. The lawsuits also sought punitive damages.
Ultimately, rather than face the officers and their attorneys at trial, Town and Union officials agreed to settle the cases. The settlements order union officials to compensate the officers almost $20,000 dollars and Town officials to pay $45,000 for dues that were seized illegally under the “$5 per hour” policy and for other damages and claims. The settlements in Koza’s and Ferrigno’s cases, on top of requiring the Town to reinstate the two officers and pay back wages, require that all references related to the discipline forming the basis of their lawsuits be removed from their personnel records.
On February 6, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island entered a consent judgment permanently enjoining IBPO Local 503 from “adopting or enforcing any compulsory union fee requirement upon any constable or reserve officer employed by or performing work for the Town of Westerly without first obtaining his or her voluntary and affirmative consent and authorization, and his or her knowing and intelligent waiver of constitutional rights.”
Officer Thomas Cimalore commented, “The Town and the IBPO could have avoided the years and expense of litigation if they had only listened in 2014 when we first tried to tell them that they cannot just take $5 per hour from our pay and give it to the Union without our permission. We did all we could to avoid bringing a lawsuit. We made repeated unsuccessful attempts to present these issues to the sitting Town Council.”
Officer Cimalore continued: “When we did finally get the opportunity to address these issues to the sitting Town Council and to their successors on the following council, we showed them that deducting the $5 per hour violates the U.S. Constitution and state law. We had attorneys send letters explaining our rights, hoping that would make progress. But all of those efforts were to no avail. After unsuccessfully trying more than a year to resolve the matter, we were forced to go to federal court. We are happy the Town and the union finally decided to do the right thing.”
“Officers Ferrigno, Koza, Morrone, Falcone, and Cimalore fought a years-long legal battle against union officials just so they could keep their community safe while maintaining their own rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation is proud to stand with them and all public servants who are targeted with intimidation, misinformation, threats of firing, and other illegal tactics simply to keep dues money flowing into the bank accounts of self-interested union officials.”
“Although the dues scheme at issue in these cases was always blatantly illegal, the fact is, while this case was being litigated the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision was issued, which now guarantees all public workers a First Amendment right not to subsidize union officials’ activities,” continued Mix. “Even with the added protection provided by the Janus decision, Rhode Island legislators should look to these and other examples of union boss malfeasance as examples of why all Ocean State workers – public or private – need Right to Work protections to ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.”
Milwaukee Worker Files Federal Charges Against Teamsters Union for Violating His Rights under State and Federal Law
NLRB Charge: Despite Right to Work law, union bosses coerced worker into becoming a union member and then blocked attempts to cut off dues payments
Milwaukee, WI (March 3, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, an employee at a Milwaukee factory has filed federal charges against Teamsters “General” Local Union No. 200 for violating his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and Wisconsin’s Right to Work law.
Tyler Lewis, employed by Snap-on Logistics Company, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after union officials told him that he must become a union member and pay membership dues as a condition of employment in violation of longstanding federal law.
Teamsters union officials further refused to allow Lewis to stop union dues from being seized from his paycheck even after he learned of his rights and resigned his union membership in September 2019. Moreover, union officials continue to deduct dues from his paycheck and refuse to refund Lewis any of the dues unlawfully seized from him.
Forcing workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment is prohibited under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which went into effect in March 2015. However, union officials continued to accept and retain union dues seized from Lewis because they claimed he could only cut off union dues deductions during a narrow union-created “window period.” Even as they made that claim, they failed to provide Lewis with specific dates when his request would be accepted under their rules.
As his charge details, the union monopoly bargaining agreement in Lewis’ workplace, which was signed after the state Right to Work law went into effect, contained language prohibited by the Right to Work law that workers must pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Moreover, even if the agreement was actually in place prior to the law’s effective date, Lewis’ Foundation-provided attorneys state in the filing that the passage of the Right to Work law invalidated the union’s claim that Lewis’ right to stop dues payments was limited to a brief union window period.
“Once again, Teamsters union bosses are using coercive tactics to force workers they claim to ‘represent’ to pay union dues and fees against their wishes,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Wisconsin’s Right to Work law should mean union membership and dues payment are strictly voluntary, but rather than respect workers’ rights and work to win their uncoerced support, union bosses are again attempting to trap workers in forced dues in violation of federal law.”
Houston Kroger Employee Slams UFCW Union Bosses with Charges for Union Dues Seizures, Deception on Rights
UFCW Local 455 officials rejected three requests by worker to exercise right to end union dues deductions, as protected by Texas Right to Work law
Houston, TX (February 28, 2020) – A Houston-based Kroger employee has just filed federal charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455 union, contending that union bosses at his workplace misinformed him about his right to resign his union membership and cut off dues deductions, and illegally ignored multiple attempts by him to exercise those rights while continuing to seize dues money from his paycheck. The charges were filed at Region 16 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Alfredo Rodriguez Lopez, sent UFCW officials a letter in June 2019 declaring that he was exercising those rights. Rodriguez’s charges argue that union bosses ignored this letter, and ignored an identical one that he sent the following month. As this was going on, Kroger continued to seize a cut of Rodriguez’s paycheck every month at the behest of UFCW bosses.
Because Rodriguez works in Texas, a state with Right to Work protections for its public and private employees, he cannot legally be compelled to pay union dues in order to keep his job.
Rodriguez later asked a union steward about the status of his request to end dues deductions. According to the charge, the union steward claimed that he had to submit his dues checkoff revocation letter on the “anniversary date” (the annual anniversary of the date he originally signed his dues checkoff authorization).
The charge reports that UFCW bosses sent Rodriguez a copy of his dues checkoff authorization card at least a month after his third request to stop union dues deductions. The card read that his dues checkoff was irrevocable except for a 15-day “escape window” “prior to the end of any subsequent yearly period or bargaining agreement termination date.” It also contained a provision which stated that the authorization would remain effective “if my employment with any Employer is terminated and I am later re-employed by the same Employer or any other Employer under contract with Local 455.”
In January 2020, union bosses sent Rodriguez a letter which finally acknowledged receipt of his membership resignation and dues checkoff revocation, but rejected his dues checkoff revocation as “untimely.”
Rodriguez’s charge argues that UFCW bosses’ continued obstruction of Rodriguez’s checkoff revocation and ongoing siphoning of dues from his paycheck violates his rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees workers “the right to refrain from any or all” union activities. Rodriguez is also challenging UFCW bosses’ checkoff language, which fails to mention that workers can cut off dues deductions during a contract hiatus or when they switch employers.
Last year, Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal aid to two Massachusetts-based employees of Stop & Shop grocery stores during the heavily publicized April 2019 strike on the chain ordered by UFCW officials. The workers, who resigned their union memberships after the strike was called so they could continue to work, faced illegal threats and bullying from union agents but eventually won settlements afterward forcing UFCW bosses to provide remedies for all the statutory violations they committed.
Foundation staff attorneys also won an appeal last October for an Illinois-based ConAgra Foods employee, who had petitioned the NLRB to conduct a vote to kick out a UFCW union from his plant. UFCW bosses had filed unrelated charges against ConAgra in an attempt to stop the vote and an NLRB Regional Director initially blocked it, but the full NLRB in Washington sided with the worker and ordered the Region to let the vote proceed.
Multiple employees in the New York City area who are under the bargaining power of UFCW bosses are also currently receiving aid from Foundation staff attorneys, including two Plattdeutsche Home Society retirement home employees in Franklin Square, NY. They filed unfair labor practice charges last May against UFCW Local 2013 because union agents failed to provide a legally-required financial breakdown of the reduced fees that they must pay as nonmembers. Foundation staff attorneys also won a settlement for a New Hyde Park Stop & Shop worker last September who was illegally misinformed by UFCW bosses that union membership was mandatory.
“Once again UFCW union bosses have been caught waging months-long campaigns of misinformation and compulsion simply to maintain their coercive influence over rank-and-file workers and to keep illegal dues flowing into their bank accounts,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Just as they did during the UFCW boss-ordered strike on Stop & Shop, and at many other times last year, Foundation staff attorneys will continue to fight to ensure that independent-minded workers can exercise their rights freely in the workplace.”
Disneyland Stage Technician Wins Settlement in Case Against IATSE Union Bosses for Illegal Dues Collection and Other Workers’ Rights Violations
Settlement: Union bosses must notify workers of their rights as required by Beck US Supreme Court decision, and also refund money illegally collected from employee
Anaheim, CA (February 26, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Disneyland stage technician has just won a settlement requiring International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 504 union bosses to return fees they illegally collected from him, and inform employees who refrain from formal union membership of their right to pay a reduced amount of dues.
Stage technician Mark Stacy, who is not a member of the IATSE union, asserted his rights under the Foundation-won Communications Workers of America v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. That decision requires unions to reduce the compulsory fees charged to workers who refrain from union membership so they are not forced to fund activities such as lobbying and political activism. The Beck decision additionally calls for union officials to provide nonmember workers an independently verified audit justifying the amount of the mandatory union fees.
Because California private-sector employees lack the protection of a Right to Work law, they can be fired for refusing to pay fees to a union. However, union officials can charge as a condition of employment only the part of dues Beck permits and must follow Beck procedures before seizing such forced union fees from workers who are not union members.
Stacy hit IATSE bosses with federal charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last July, asserting that they had illegally collected union dues from him and had not complied with Beck’s procedural requirements, including providing him with a valid and complete audit.
Now, as a result of the settlement, IATSE bosses will refund the money they collected from him. The settlement also orders union officials to “inform objecting nonmembers of the complete basis for [the] calculation of the percentage reduction in dues and fees” and not to “accept and retain dues which have been deducted” from Stacy “without his prior written authorization.” The settlement provides remedies for all of the rights violations Stacy had asserted in his original charge.
Foundation staff attorneys are also providing free legal aid to a Disney actress, 12-year-old Aundrea Smith, following her assertions that American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union bosses’ are threatening to impose union “discipline” on her for acting in a nonunion commercial before she was even a member of SAG-AFTRA. Smith, who resigned her union membership last August, currently acts in “Diary of a Future President,” a series on Disney’s streaming service.
“Mr. Stacy dedicates his working life to making children’s dreams come true, and it’s outrageous that IATSE union bosses believed they could violate the most basic protections on his workplace rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While his victory is certainly good news, this case shows why California workers need the protections of a Right to Work law to ensure that union membership and financial support are voluntary, not coerced.”
Michigan Electrician Hits IBEW Union Bosses with Federal Charges for Illegal Retaliation for Working for His Wife’s Business
Union officials kept electrician in the dark about right to resign union membership, then demanded thousands in fines after he and wife rebuffed union contract demands
Detroit, MI (February 19, 2020) – A Michigan electrician is hitting International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58 union bosses with federal charges for not telling him about his right to resign his union membership, and subsequently illegally fining him. The charges were filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Charles Lanning had worked as an electrician for several different employers since early 2008, before joining his wife’s business in 2018. His charge reports that, though he was on IBEW membership rolls during that time period, IBEW agents had never informed him of his right to resign his union membership, or his right prior to the passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law to pay only the portion of union dues directly related to monopoly bargaining under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Since March 2013, Michigan has had Right to Work protections for workers, which outlaw arrangements where union bosses can require workers to pay them a portion of their paychecks as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
Mr. Lanning’s charge recounts that he left a job with a contractor in March 2018 so he could work for his wife’s business, Homestead Enterprises of Michigan. After doing so, he called the IBEW Local 58 office to find out if he would still be required to pay any kind of fees to the union despite the fact that he “would not be seeking work through the union hiring hall for the foreseeable future.” IBEW officials told him that they would continue to demand quarterly dues from him, and again failed to apprise him that he had the right to resign his union membership completely and exercise his right under Michigan’s Right to Work law to stop all union payments. Because of this misinformation, Mr. Lanning continued to pay quarterly dues.
In September 2019, according to the charge, IBEW union bosses told Mr. Lanning in a text message that they needed to update him on the “contract changes making it possible for members to be contractors.” Mr. and Mrs. Lanning later sat for a meeting with IBEW bosses to discuss these supposed changes, during which the union bosses pressured Lanning’s wife to sign a contract which would force her to bargain with the IBEW union simply for hiring her husband.
Mrs. Lanning did not sign, and IBEW bosses subsequently informed Mr. Lanning that the IBEW had brought union disciplinary charges against him and that “we may forgive them if you decided to become signatory” to the contract. At the proceeding before a union tribunal to determine whether Mr. Lanning had violated the union’s constitution and bylaws, Mr. Lanning was told that “guys lose their retirement for doing this kind of thing” and that IBEW agents would “salt” his wife’s business. “Salting” is a deceptive union practice in which union organizers apply for jobs at nonunion companies with the intention of organizing the workers into monopoly union ranks or instigating costly and often frivolous legal action.
In addition to the threats against his retirement and his wife’s business, IBEW Local 58’s internal trial board convicted Mr. Lanning of violating union rules and demanded that he pay $10,000 in fines. Mr. Lanning’s charge argues that he was never a consensual member of the IBEW because he had never been told that membership was optional. Because his membership was never valid, the charge explains, all of the union-created disciplinary measures are flagrant violations of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects workers’ “right to refrain from” union activity.
“Michigan union bosses are shamelessly attacking a man for choosing to work alongside his wife all to expand their coercive power over individual workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This brazen behavior, combined with IBEW bosses’ long-running misinformation campaign against Mr. Lanning concerning his rights, are just one example of the continuing widespread corruption among Michigan union bosses that Foundation attorneys will continue to fight.”
Since Michigan’s Right to Work law became effective in March 2013, Foundation staff attorneys have brought over 120 cases for Michigan workers subjected to coercive union boss tactics.
Fort Campbell Employee Hits Laborers Union Bosses with EEOC Charges for Illegal Religious Discrimination
Instead of accommodating employee’s sincerely-held religious beliefs as federal law requires, LIUNA union officials attempted to interrogate her about her religious beliefs
Clarksville, TN (February 4, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an employee of J & J Worldwide Service filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on the grounds that Laborers Local Union 576 (LIUNA) officials illegally discriminated against her because of her religious beliefs.
According to Dorothy Frame’s charge, she sought a religious accommodation so she would not have to fund the union in violation of her religious beliefs, only to have the union deny her request and illegally demand she “provide a theological defense.” Frame, who is Catholic, objects to having union fees deducted from her paycheck because she opposes the union’s stance on abortion. The charge will now be investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Frame works at Fort Campbell, a military installation on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. According to her charge, she sent LIUNA union officials a letter in July 2019 requesting a “religious accommodation of her objection to joining or financially supporting the union.” Frame’s charge notes that she believes abortion is “the unjustified destruction of a human life,” a belief that is rooted in “her understanding of Catholic teaching, scripture, and God’s will.” Because of those sincere beliefs and her knowledge that the union “funds and supports abortion,” her charge states that for her “it would be sinful to join or financially support the union.”
Frame had been a LIUNA member for four years before requesting an accommodation. According to the charge, she converted to Catholicism in 2017 and discovered the conflict between her religious beliefs and union officials’ position on abortion “shortly before she wrote her accommodation request.”
Although Kentucky and Tennessee both have Right to Work laws which ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, Fort Campbell’s status as an “exclusive federal enclave” overrides those state laws. The monopoly bargaining contract between J & J Worldwide Service and the LIUNA union requires Frame to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. If she received the religious accommodation federal law requires, the portion of her paycheck that would normally go toward dues would be redirected to a charity that Frame and union officials both find acceptable.
Instead, LIUNA bosses rebuffed Frame’s request in August 2019, sending her a letter in which a union lawyer told Frame she would need to “provide a theological defense” of her beliefs to meet LIUNA union officials’ supposed standard for a “legitimate justification” for her accommodation request. Frame then provided a letter from her parish priest supporting her religious opposition to abortion, but, according to her charge, “the Union lawyer rejected this evidence based on his supposedly superior religious views.”
Frame’s Foundation-provided attorney also provided evidence to LIUNA officials that abortion violates the teachings of the Catholic Church, but her charge notes that union officials never responded to this additional evidence and continue to take money from her paycheck in violation of her sincere religious beliefs. Her charge alleges this violates her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discriminating against an individual based on his or her religious beliefs. If the EEOC finds merit in her charges, Frame could be given a “right to sue” letter, which authorizes her to file a federal lawsuit against LIUNA officials to vindicate her rights.
Foundation staff attorneys regularly aid workers that have been the subject of religious discrimination by union bosses. In November, Boston College electrician Ardeshir Ansari, a Muslim, filed an EEOC Title VII lawsuit with free Foundation legal assistance after Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) bosses continued to deduct fees from his paycheck despite his request for a religious accommodation.
“It is outrageous that LIUNA bosses are forcing Ms. Frame to choose between keeping her job and violating her sincere religious beliefs,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While such religious discrimination is a blatant violation of federal law, union boss demands in this case serve as a reminder why no worker in America should be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose, whether their opposition is religious-based or for other reasons.”
National Workplace Advocacy Group to Charter School Teachers: ‘Know Your Rights to Protect Yourself from Compulsory Unionism’
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President issues statement in recognition of National School Choice Week
Washington, DC (January 30, 2020) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement in recognition of National School Choice Week 2020:
This week, as we encourage parents to explore and choose the education that will best serve the needs of their children, we must also recognize that teacher union officials are constantly posing threats to this freedom. For decades, they have engaged in sustained political campaigns to undermine school choice, often specifically targeting charter schools and charter school teachers. But despite that opposition, charter schools have enjoyed steady growth and popularity.
So union officials have taken the fight into charter schools themselves. Coast-to-coast, teacher union bosses have employed coercive tactics to foist their so-called ‘representation’ onto charter school educators. This puts charter school students and teachers at risk: Many of them were attracted to charter schools precisely because they reject the one-size-fits-all approach promoted by national teacher union bosses.
Take, for example, Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego, California. The school made an impressive transition in 2005 from a traditional public school to a charter school after 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 gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.
In 2019, after being unionized with a controversial ‘card check’ drive that bypassed the more reliable method of holding a secret ballot vote, Gompers teachers began circulating a petition for a vote to remove the union. Despite the teachers having more than enough signatures to trigger a vote, union officials are already trying to block the decertification election from taking place.
Charter school employees are entitled to certain constitutional and statutory rights, but unfortunately union officials frequently attempt to keep employees in the dark about those rights. That is why National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have provided direct, free legal aid to over 10,000 teachers since its founding, including the teachers at Gompers, and why the Foundation has its Charter School Initiative. Foundation-won legal precedents have also expanded the workplace rights of millions of teachers across the country.
Led by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the National Right to Work Foundation’s Charter School Initiative aims to enlighten charter school employees about their rights so that they can make decisions about union representation in an atmosphere free of union boss threats, harassment, coercion, or misrepresentation. To that end, Foundation attorneys have developed free educational materials for charter school teachers and other employees. Furthermore, Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to defend charter school employees from the injustices of forced unionism.
Charter school teachers and other employees: You have rights. For more information about your rights and the Foundation’s Charter School Initiative, check out our website at http://www.nrtw.org/charterschools.”
SAG-AFTRA Union Officials Slammed with Federal Labor Charges After Threatening Unlawful Union ‘Discipline’ against 12-Year-Old Girl
Union officials violate girl’s legal rights by initiating proceedings against her for filming a nonunion commercial, even though she was not a union member
Los Angeles, CA (January 28, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, 12-year-old actress Aundrea Smith filed unfair labor practice charges against the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union for violating her legal rights under federal labor law.
Smith filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after union officials initiated internal union proceedings and threatened to impose union “discipline” – likely a fine – on Smith for filming a nonunion commercial, even though she was not a union member at the time. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits union officials from imposing union “discipline” on nonmembers.
Smith did join SAG-AFTRA in April 2019, one month after filming the commercial, but subsequently resigned her union membership upon learning of her rights under the NLRA in August 2019. The NLRA provides that an individual cannot be forced to join a union just to get or keep a job and guarantees individuals the absolute right to resign their union membership whenever they choose.
Earlier this month, Communication Workers of America (CWA) union officials were forced to settle a similar case with Florida worker Jared Brewer, who is employed by AT&T. Union officials refused to acknowledge Brewer’s union membership resignation while on military leave. Then union officials unlawfully attempted to impose union “discipline” on Brewer for returning to work during a work stoppage, even though he had already resigned as a union member.
“The NLRB must intervene to halt this blatant and unlawful abuse of power by SAG-AFTRA union officials against this young actress,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We’re proud to stand with Aundrea who is standing up for her rights against this shameful bullying by union bosses.”
AT&T Employee Wins Settlement from CWA Union after Facing Union Retaliation for Exercising Legal Rights
Union officials refused to allow worker to resign his union membership while on military leave and attempted to fine him in violation of federal labor law
Jacksonville, FL (January 24, 2020) – AT&T employee Jared Brewer has won a favorable settlement from Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 3106 union with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation after union officials violated his legal rights under federal law.
To end the case, union officials rescinded their threat to subject Brewer to internal union “discipline” and fine him for exercising his legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). They also were required to notify other workers of their legal rights by posting notices on the union’s bulletin boards at 22 AT&T Jacksonville facilities.
Brewer was on military leave when union officials called a strike in August 2019. He sent an email to them in which he resigned his union membership. Even though the NLRA guarantees employees the right to resign their union membership at any time, union officials refused to honor Brewer’s request. One union representative falsely claimed that his resignation letter was “untimely.”
After sending a certified letter containing the same resignation language, Brewer returned to work. Despite his resignation, union officials told Brewer in an October letter that they were bringing charges against him in an internal union “trial” for working during the union-initiated work stoppage. Brewer did not attend the November 7 “trial” because he had already resigned his union membership and, therefore, could not legally be subject to union disciplinary procedures.
Union officials notified Brewer on November 15 that the union found him guilty at its “trial” and imposed a monetary fine of more. They threatened him with legal action if he did not pay the fine within 21 days.
In response, Brewer filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Brewer charged that union officials violated his legal rights under the NLRA by disciplining and fining him as a nonmember, and by denying his resignation. Union officials are prohibited from requiring formal union membership as a condition of employment by both Florida’s Right to Work law and the NLRA, and under the NLRA workers are free to resign their union membership at any time.
Brewer’s unfair labor practice charges drove union officials to settle. This requires union officials to honor Brewer’s resignation and rescind the fine and union “discipline” against him. Union officials also must post for 60 days in its union hall and numerous AT&T facilities a notice in which the union promises not to “restrain or coerce” workers from exercising their legal rights to resign and work during strikes.
“Faced with legal action from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, CWA union officials backed down from their blatant violations of longstanding labor law and were forced to settle with Mr. Brewer,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Federal labor law is crystal clear: Workers have an absolute right to resign their union membership if they choose, and once a worker has exercised that right they cannot be subject to fines levied by any internal union boss kangaroo court.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Swedish Medical Center Employees Impacted by Planned SEIU Union Boss Strike
Already facing multiple federal charges brought by SMC employees concerning illegal dues deductions, SEIU 1199NW officials now demand workers abandon their patients
Seattle, WA (January 23, 2020) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have issued a special legal notice to the almost 8,000 Swedish Medical Center employees who will be affected by the strike planned by Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW officials to begin on January 28. The strike announcement comes after Swedish Medical Center and union officials failed to ratify a new monopoly bargaining contract, according to January 17 news reports.
The legal notice informs rank-and-file Swedish Medical Center workers of the rights SEIU bosses won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to refuse to abandon their patients and to keep working to support their families despite the union-ordered strike. The notice discusses why workers across the country frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations.
“This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be fully informed before they do so.”
The full notice is available at www.nrtw.org/SMC-Strike.
The notice clearly outlines the process that Swedish Medical Center nurses and other employees should follow if they want to exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishment from union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters. It also reminds them of their right to cut off all union dues payments in the absence of a monopoly bargaining contract between the hospital and the SEIU, and their right to pay only the portion of dues directly germane to bargaining once the strike is over, under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. The notice encourages employees to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience union resistance as they attempt to exercise any of these rights.
SEIU 1199NW bosses are currently facing federal charges from Swedish Medical Center workers, who assert that the bosses violated their Beck rights and illegally rejected requests to cut off dues deductions while there was no monopoly bargaining contract in effect. And, 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 question whether the upcoming union-ordered 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.”
“Should SEIU bosses again refuse to comply with Swedish Medical Center employees’ legal rights, we encourage rank-and-file workers to immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” added Mix.