Kentucky UPS Employee Appeals to Labor Board General Counsel in Case Charging Teamsters Officials with Illegal Dues Deductions
Union bosses continued to seize dues without a monopoly bargaining contract, rebuffing multiple valid attempts from employee to end dues deductions from paycheck
Hopkinsville, KY (January 22, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Hopkinsville, KY-based UPS employee William Anderson is appealing his case against Teamsters Local 215 union bosses to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC. Anderson has charged Teamsters officials with illegally rejecting requests he made to stop dues deductions from his paycheck while there was no contract in place between the Teamsters union and UPS, and continuing to seize dues from his paycheck after receiving those requests. Under Kentucky’s Right to Work law, Anderson cannot be required to pay dues to keep his job.
Anderson’s appeal recounts that he sent a letter to Teamsters bosses on March 25, 2019, resigning his union membership and cutting off dues deductions. Teamsters officials responded the next week by acknowledging his resignation, but claiming that his dues checkoff revocation was not timely submitted. Anderson tried to cease dues deductions again with a letter on April 8, 2019, but union agents rebuffed this one too, claiming that his revocation had to be submitted during a 15-day “window period” in February to be valid.
As Anderson was trying to stop the dues flow from his paycheck, his appeal notes, Teamsters officials and UPS had not yet ratified a new monopoly bargaining contract. Although Teamsters bosses had failed to inform him of his right to revoke his dues checkoff at will while no contract was in effect, Anderson discovered his rights independently and sent union agents letters on April 17 and May 8, 2019, asking for a copy of the new monopoly bargaining contract. Anderson “believed this new contract was not ratified at the time he sent his revocation letters” and thus thought his two attempts to stop dues should have been honored.
In response, Anderson’s appeal notes, Teamsters bosses sent him on May 21, 2019, a copy of an “extension agreement dated June 21, 2018 that indefinitely extended the prior contract” past its expiration date, ostensibly in an attempt to show Anderson that there was never a contract hiatus in which he could have stopped dues deductions. Anderson’s appeal argues that, because federal law forbids dues checkoffs which are “irrevocable…beyond the termination date of the applicable” monopoly bargaining contract, Teamsters officials violated his rights by rejecting his attempts to cut off dues.
With free legal aid from the Foundation, Anderson filed federal charges at NLRB Region 10 against Teamsters bosses in September 2019, asserting that they had violated his rights by not informing him of the times he could revoke his dues checkoff, limiting to an illegal “window period” the time in which he could stop dues deductions, and “rejecting his revocation during a contract hiatus.” Region 10 rejected Anderson’s contention that Teamsters bosses had denied his revocation while there was no contract in effect, prompting his appeal to the NLRB General Counsel in Washington, DC.
“Teamsters bosses, in this case and many others, have given the very workers they claim to represent misinformation about their right to cut off union dues deductions and imposed arbitrary restrictions on the exercise of that right simply to keep dues money flowing into their coffers,” observed National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “We urge the General Counsel to quickly prosecute Teamsters officials for illegally blocking Mr. Anderson’s attempt to exercise his right to stop funding union activites.”
Seattle Hospital Employee Hits SEIU Union with Federal Charges for Illegally Deducting Dues after Contract Expired
SEIU 1199NW union officials facing second round of federal charges from Swedish Medical Center employees as union bosses threaten strike
Seattle, WA (January 10, 2020) – Swedish Medical Center employee Daniel Dalison is charging Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW bosses and his employer with illegally seizing union dues from his paycheck when there is no contract in effect between the union and employer, and additionally with unlawfully ignoring two attempts he made to exercise his rights to resign union membership and pay reduced dues. His charges were filed at Region 19 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Dalison’s charges come as news reports indicate that SEIU 1199NW bosses could potentially order Swedish Medical Center employees to strike if a new contract is not approved by January 10. The Foundation’s website provides information on the legal rights of workers in the absence of a contract, including the process by which one can resign his or her union membership and rebuff both union fee demands and any strike orders.
According to his charges, Dalison sent two letters to SEIU bosses in December 2019 ending his union membership and asserting his right under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision to pay only the amount of union dues directly germane to bargaining. Because Washington State lacks Right to Work protections for workers, private sector workers like Dalison who refrain from formal union membership can be legally required to pay a portion of dues in order to keep their jobs.
Dalison’s charges also note that his membership revocation letter should have been effective in stopping all dues deductions from his paycheck because the monopoly bargaining contract between Swedish Medical Center and the SEIU union had expired, leaving him with no active legal obligation to pay any fees to the SEIU hierarchy. Nevertheless, his charges state, neither Swedish Medical Center nor SEIU officials have responded to his requests, and Swedish Medical Center continues to deduct full membership dues from Dalison’s paycheck at the behest of SEIU officials.
Dalison’s charges also allege that SEIU has never given him or his coworkers “adequate notice of their rights” under Beck. Those rights include the rights to be a nonmember and as such object and not pay full union dues, and the right to be provided “disclosure of the reduced fee amount employees will have to pay if they choose Beck objector status” and an independent audit of the union’s expenditures. The charge explains that SEIU bosses’ actions and omissions violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and are attempts by the SEIU union to “trick or force nonmembers into funding its political and ideological agenda.”
Dalison’s charges come just months after another Swedish Medical Center employee, NancyEllen Elster, filed federal charges with Foundation aid similarly alleging that SEIU bosses never furnished employees a proper Beck rights notice, and had denied her request to pay the Beck reduced fee rather than full dues. Region 19 found merit in Elster’s charges and imposed an October 2019 settlement intended to rectify the union’s violations. Because SEIU officials have apparently flouted the requirements of that settlement, Dalison’s charges urge Region 19 resume prosecution of the SEIU for the violations in Elster’s case.
Those charges were not the only time Washington State SEIU bosses were recently caught violating workers’ legal rights. In October 2019, SEIU 775NW officials were forced to settle a federal case and refund well over $3 million to home-based healthcare providers in the state who asserted in the lawsuit that the SEIU had diverted a percentage of Medicaid payments from them to the union in violation of their statutory and constitutional rights.
“Given Washington State SEIU bosses’ repeated flouting of even the most basic employee rights protections, it is understandable that Swedish Medical Center employees may begin questioning whether the threatened strike is really what is best for themselves, their families, and their patients,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Swedish Medical Center employees should know they unequivocally have the right to resign their union memberships and avoid all union fee demands and strike orders in the absence of a contract.”
“If SEIU bosses further refuse to comply with Swedish Medical Center employees’ legal rights, other rank-and-file workers there should immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” added Mix.
National Right to Work Foundation Submits Comments Urging Labor Board to Eliminate Policies that Trap Workers in Union Ranks They Oppose
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) initiating rulemaking to modify rules used to block workers’ right to escape union ranks
Washington, DC (January 9, 2020) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has just submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), urging it to issue a final rule to nix three arbitrary policies that union officials frequently manipulate to trap workers in union ranks despite a majority’s desire to oust the union from the workplace. The three policies are not statutory, but were created by past Board precedents. The comments, submitted by Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse, support all three changes the NLRB is currently considering in rulemaking. However, the comments advocate an important modification to the Board’s proposed change in how it deals with so-called “blocking charges.”
The NLRB’s “blocking charge” policy currently lets union bosses file unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against an employer to halt employee votes to decertify unions, even if the allegations against the employer have no connection to the decertification effort. The agency plans to eliminate that policy and replace it with one that lets decertification elections proceed while such charges are pending, but requires the results of the vote to be withheld until those charges are resolved.
The Foundation’s comments explain that the Board’s proposed “vote and impound” procedure does not fully address the blocking charge problem, because even after workers vote union officials could continue to trap them in unwanted representation by dragging out the ULP process to maintain monopoly bargaining powers for months or years before the vote can be announced. The comments point out that this will unfairly “frustrate and confuse employees who may have to wait years to see the election’s results.” Instead, the Foundation urges the Board to release vote tallies first to “decrease litigation and give parties greater information on whether to settle” unfair labor practice charge allegations unlikely to impact the election’s outcome.
Foundation staff attorneys have provided legal assistance to scores of workers faced with “blocking charges,” most recently a group of Alaskan bus drivers who were freed in December 2019 from an unpopular Teamsters union after three years of attempts to remove it. One employee in that situation commented to the NLRB that Teamsters officials’ continued blocking of an election was “the most unfair and anti-democratic event” with which he had ever been involved.
The Foundation’s comments support the NLRB’s move to reinstate a process that allows employees and rival unions to file for secret-ballot elections after a union has been installed in a workplace through abuse-prone “card check” drives that bypass the NLRB-supervised election process. That critical modification to the so-called “voluntary recognition bar” policy would reinstate a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp NLRB decision. Despite thousands of workers using the process to secure secret ballot votes after being unionized through card checks, the Obama NLRB overturned Dana in 2010.
The Foundation’s comments also support the agency’s proposed rule to crack down on schemes in the construction industry where employers and union bosses are allowed to unilaterally install a union in a workplace without first providing proof of majority union support among the workers. Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in a case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled for the worker, who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.
The Foundation has long called for the NLRB to abandon all barriers to employee decertification of unions which the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that the agency is charged with enforcing, does not mandate or even mention. In addition to the “blocking charge” policy and “voluntary recognition bar” that are subjects of the current rulemaking, the Foundation also opposes other arbitrary and non-statutory barriers to workers exercising their right to a decertification election.
“For too long the statutory right of employees under the National Labor Relations Act to vote out a union they oppose has been trampled by arbitrary NLRB policies that allow union bosses to maintain power despite the overwhelming opposition of rank-and-file workers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Delays in the rulemaking process this Board has used to address these coercive policies means workers across the country continue to be trapped in unions they oppose every day, which is why the NLRB should now swiftly finalize these rules as the Foundation’s comments advocate.”
Petition contains signatures of more than enough employees at charter school to trigger secret-ballot election to oust teacher union imposed through unreliable “card check” drive
San Diego, CA (January 8, 2020) – A group of employees at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA), a charter school in the Chollas View neighborhood, have signed a petition for a vote to remove the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union from monopoly bargaining power at the school. GPA teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano, who obtained free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, just submitted the decertification petition at the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
Contention has surrounded the SDEA’s presence at GPA, as the union installed itself in January 2019 after conducting a controversial “card check” drive, bypassing the more reliable method of a secret-ballot election whether to certify a union as the monopoly representative of all educators in the school. GPA transitioned from being a regular public school to a charter preparatory academy in 2005 as the result of a campaign by parents, teachers, and administrators who believed that school district and union bureaucracies were not serving the students’ interests, especially by failing to combat the issues of gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.
Since the school’s unionization without a secret ballot vote in January 2019, no monopoly bargaining contract has been approved. GPA parents and educators have accused SDEA agents of sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation, making unnecessary and disparaging comments to school leadership during bargaining sessions, and plotting to prevent the California NAACP from giving the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, an award for helping minority students succeed.
Dr. Chiscano, who teaches chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students, began circulating the decertification petition in October 2019. She soon obtained the signatures of well over the number of her fellow educators necessary to trigger a PERB-supervised secret-ballot vote to remove the union. Their petition was filed with the PERB immediately following the one-year anniversary of the union’s installation.
In December, union officials preemptively filed a charge at PERB seeking “that the certification year be extended.” That would block the educators’ right to remove the union from their workplace for another year despite no evidence or even an allegation that any educator violated the law. Such “blocking charges” are a tactic union lawyers frequently use to block rank-and-file employees from holding secret-ballot elections that could result in the removal of union officials from power as employees’ designated monopoly representative.
Dr. Chiscano turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid to challenge this attempt by union officials to stymie her and her coworkers’ right to hold a decertification vote to oust a union they believe lacks the support of a majority of the school’s educators.
“Rather than face a secret-ballot vote of the rank-and-file educators they claim to represent, SDEA union bosses are attempting to resort to legal trickery to trap teachers in a union they oppose by blocking their right to hold a decertification election,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “By using these coercive tactics to attempt to trap teachers in union ranks SDEA union officials do wrong by GPA’s namesake, AFL-CIO union founder Samuel Gompers, who himself urged devotion to ‘the principles of voluntarism’ and reminded all American workers that ‘no lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.’”
Healthcare Worker Sues Teamsters Union and Healthcare Facility for Violating West Virginia Right to Work Law
Former Tygart Center employee says union officials and employer violated her legal rights by demanding she join the union and pay union dues and fees to keep her job
Fairmont, WV (December 24, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, healthcare worker Donna Harper filed a lawsuit against Teamsters Local 175 and the Tygart Center for violating her rights under the State of West Virginia’s Right to Work law.
West Virginia’s Right to Work law prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues or fees just to get or keep a job. In defiance of West Virginia’s Right to Work law, Tygart Center and Teamsters union officials entered into a collective bargaining agreement that required employees to pay union dues and fees as a condition of employment.
When Harper was hired, Tygart Center officials informed Harper that she must become a union member and pay union dues as a condition of employment in violation of her legal rights. Tygart Center officials deducted full union membership dues and fees from Harper’s paycheck and remitted this money to Teamsters union officials.
In March 2019, Harper successfully exercised her legal rights by resigning her union membership. Even then union officials continued taking union dues from her paycheck. Union officials also never fully refunded the union dues unlawfully seized from her wages.
Foundation staff attorneys filed the suit against the Tygart Center and the Teamsters union for Harper in Marion County Circuit Court. Harper worked at the Tygart Center from February 2018 until September 2019 as a Laundry Aide and as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Foundation staff attorneys also filed an amicus brief for Harper with the West Virginia Supreme Court defending the state Right to Work law against a protracted lawsuit brought by several unions seeking to overturn the law and restore union officials’ power to have workers fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees. That case is scheduled for oral arguments in the Supreme Court on January 15. That court has already rejected the unions’ arguments once, overturning a preliminary injunction against the Right to Work law.
“Teamsters union bosses demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law by illegally demanding Ms. Harper and her coworkers pay union dues and fees just to get or keep their jobs,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Contrary to Big Labor’s wishes, West Virginia’s Right to Work law is in full effect, meaning all union dues for workers covered by the law must be completely voluntary.”
Flint-Area Nurse Hits Teamsters Union Bosses and Genesys Hospital with Lawsuit for Violating Michigan’s Right to Work Law
State court lawsuit: Teamsters union bosses and Genesys Regional Medical Center illegally rejected six different requests by nurse to end union dues deductions
Flint, MI (December 17, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Flint-area nurse Madrina Wells has sued the Teamsters Local 332 union, after union bosses illegally demanded she pay them union fees as a condition of keeping her job. Her employer, Genesys Regional Medical Center, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for seizing union fees from her paycheck at the behest of Teamsters officials. Wells’ lawsuit, filed in state court, says that both actions violate her rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law.
According to the complaint filed in Genesee County Circuit Court, Wells resigned her union membership in February 2018 and requested that Teamsters officials cease all dues deductions from her paycheck in December of the same year. Notwithstanding her request, Teamsters bosses sent her a letter in January 2019 demanding that she pay them nonmember “agency fees” after she returned from a stint on medical leave, which she had begun in December 2018.
Though a reduced amount of union dues is legally chargeable to private sector employees who abstain from formal union membership in non-Right to Work states, in Right to Work states like Michigan no public or private sector employee is required to pay any amount of union fees as a condition of employment.
When Wells resumed work in July 2019, the complaint notes, she sent Teamsters officials another notice “renewing her objection” to tendering any dues or fees whatsoever to the Teamsters hierarchy. Teamsters bosses again rebuffed her request, insisting that she was required to pay them a portion of union fees as a condition of employment.
According to the complaint, Teamsters officials subsequently demanded forced fees from Wells for July through December of 2019, all in clear violation of her rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law. Wells responded to each demand by reiterating her objection to the illegal fees, but submitted the fees demanded by Teamsters bosses under protest. On top of that, Genesys Regional Medical Center forcibly deducted the Teamsters’ so-called “agency fee” from Wells’ paycheck in August 2019, and seized the full amount of union dues from her paycheck in October.
Wells seeks a ruling from the Genesee County Circuit Court that will make Teamsters officials end all illegal dues demands and pay “damages and/or equitable restitution” to her for all the dues that they seized from her, plus interest.
Michigan has been a hotbed for litigation brought for workers with Foundation legal aid since the state enacted its Right to Work law in 2013. Recently, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for Port Huron-area public school employees Tammy Williams and Linda Gervais, ending dues demands made by the Michigan Education Association union (MEA) in violation of the Right to Work law. As a result of that settlement, more than a dozen teachers were freed from illegal dues demands.
“Once again Michigan union bosses have been caught shamelessly violating Michigan’s Right to Work law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in the Wolverine State since its Right to Work law was enacted, and will continue the fight until all Michigan workers can freely exercise their right not to fund unions with which they disagree.”
Yotel Boston Housekeepers File Charges Challenging Illegal Employer Assistance in UNITE HERE Unionization Push
Workers file federal charges against union and hotel for pact to assist union organizers during coercive “card check” union organizing drive
Boston, MA (December 12, 2019) – Four Boston housekeepers have filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against their employer Yotel Boston and the UNITE HERE Local 26 union with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The employees’ NLRB charges allege UNITE HERE union officials violated federal law by imposing union representation on workers through a coercive “card check” drive with their employer’s assistance.
Housekeepers Cindy J. Alarcon Vasquez, Lady Laura Javier, Yestca Perez Barrios, and Danela Guzman charge that Yotel Boston provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid” and recognized the union as the employees’ exclusive representative in the workplace even though union officials had not demonstrated that an untainted majority of workers support the union. The workers contend that by doing so Yotel Boston and UNITE HERE officials violated their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives those employees support such as a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. The workers here argue that Yotel Boston similarly tainted the union’s organizing campaign by providing to UNITE HERE union organizers assistance amounting to more than “ministerial aid.”
These charges were filed just weeks after NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, the Board’s top prosecutor, ordered NLRB Region 19 to prosecute Embassy Suites and the UNITE HERE Local 8 union for similarly assisting UNITE HERE in foisting the union on that hotel’s workers through a card check. Granting an appeal by Seattle housekeeper Gladys Bryant, the General Counsel found that the union’s “card check” recognition was tainted because Bryant’s employer, Embassy Suites, provided significant aid to the union officials’ organizing efforts through their “neutrality agreement” in violation of the NLRA.
Bryant’s appeal successfully argued that the “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers. Thus, the General Counsel’s ruling applied the “ministerial aid” standard consistently, no matter whether the employer’s assistance favors or opposes unionization.
“It is long past time that the National Labor Relations Board ended its double standard that helps union bosses abuse workers’ rights through coercive card check unionization drives,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The General Counsel correctly recognized recently that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”
“This case shows that union bosses are not only willing to manipulate and ignore the rights of the workers they claim they want to ‘represent,’ but that their coercion has gone unchecked for far too long because of double standards in how the NLRB has interpreted the law,” Mix added.
Newark Courthouse Security Guards Win Settlement Forcing Union Bosses to Refund Illegal Dues and Stop Retaliatory Lawsuit
Union bosses filed collection suit illegally demanding dues payments from nonmember employee for period when there was no union contract in effect
Newark, NJ (December 11, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Newark, New Jersey-based security guards Andrei Bobev and William Sona have won a settlement against United Government Security Officers of America (UGSOA) union bosses, whom they charged with illegally demanding union dues from them while there was no contract in effect between the employer and union. The settlement was approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 22 in Newark.
As part of the settlement, UGSOA officials are required to refund to Sona and six coworkers more than $4,000 in dues and fees that were taken from them illegally, and notify Bobev that they will not continue a civil lawsuit they filed against him to force him to pay illegal union dues after he refused to do so. Bobev and Sona are not members of the UGSOA.
Bobev first sought the aid of Foundation staff attorneys after Paragon Systems took over the federal contract for security services at the U.S. Courthouse in Newark. USGOA bosses, who under the old contractor had monopoly bargaining power over the security guards at the courthouse, demanded that employees continue to pay them dues and fees even though a contract had not yet been finalized between the union and Paragon. Bobbev declined to pay the illegally-demanded dues, and filed federal charges with the NLRB against UGSOA officials with National Right to Work Foundation legal aid.
NLRB Region 22 officials dismissed Bobev’s charges, and UGSOA officials shortly after retaliated against him with a civil lawsuit in an attempt to force him into paying the illegal dues. However, the NLRB General Counsel in Washington reversed Region 22’s dismissal and instructed regional officials to prosecute Bobev’s charge.
Sona and other nonmembers were misled by union officials and started paying illegal dues and fees while there was no monopoly bargaining contract in effect between Paragon and the UGSOA union. With the current settlement, he and six of his fellow security guards will receive back all the money that they paid to UGSOA bosses during that period, plus interest.
UGSOA officials are also required by the settlement to post notices at union headquarters and at all of Paragon Systems’ Newark locations. The notices declare that union bosses “will not threaten to cause [the] employer to discharge [employees] for failure to pay dues and/or service fees” when there is no monopoly bargaining contract in effect, and “will not threaten to enforce [the union’s] by-laws and constitution against non-members by threatening to institute civil proceedings” to force them to pay dues or fees.
“Although this settlement finally provides Mr. Bobev, Mr. Sona, and their coworkers with remedies for illegal union boss actions, it is outrageous that UGSOA officials believed they could enforce their coercive bylaws on workers without having legal power over any one of them in the absence of a contract,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “A Right to Work law would stop coercive union boss activity in New Jersey by giving workers the right to voluntarily choose whether or not to join or financially support a union.”
Alaska School Bus Drivers Win Three Year Battle to Kick Unpopular Teamsters Union Bosses Out of Their Workplace
Multi-year legal fight to remove union opposed by majority of workers shows need for reform of NLRB rules that allow unions to block workers’ from holding decertification votes
Anchorage, AK (December 9, 2019) – A group of Alaskan school bus drivers have just prevailed in their years-long effort to remove an unpopular Teamsters union from their workplace. The union’s ouster comes after National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal aid to Elizabeth Chase, the bus driver leading the charge to hold a decertification election so workers could vote out the union.
After workers sought for almost three years to remove the union, Teamsters Local 959 union officials finally stopped fighting the workers’ efforts by filing a disclaimer of interest with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle. The disclaimer came after the Region dismissed the union’s latest unfair labor practice charge following Chase’s fifth request for review to the full NLRB in Washington, DC, contesting the Regional Director’s continued block of a decertification vote at the behest of Teamsters bosses.
Chase is an employee of Apple Bus Company near Anchorage, Alaska. In July 2017, she submitted a decertification petition to NLRB Region 19 asking for a secret ballot election to remove the Teamsters as the monopoly bargaining representative in her workplace. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), if a decertification petition garners signatures from at least 30 percent of the employees in a bargaining unit, the NLRB is supposed to conduct a secret-ballot election to determine whether a majority of the employees wish to decertify the union. Chase’s initial petition was signed by more than 50 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit, far more than necessary to trigger a decertification vote.
The NLRB Regional Director blocked the decertification vote later that year, citing the Obama Labor Board-backed “successor bar,” which prohibits workers from removing an unwanted union simply because the ownership of an employer has changed hands. That “successor bar” is not mandated by the NLRA, which the NLRB is charged with enforcing.
Despite that setback, Chase and her coworkers continued their efforts to remove the Teamsters from their workplace, filing another decertification petition in 2018. This time, Teamsters officials moved to prevent the vote by filing successive “blocking charges” with the Regional Director, alleging unfair labor practices by Apple Bus. The Regional Director repeatedly allowed union officials to block a vote despite Chase’s pointing out that the Region failed to “explain specifically what causal connection(s) exist” between the petition and the union bosses’ allegations that made it necessary to stop the vote. All told, Chase requested five times that the full NLRB in Washington, DC, reverse the Regional Director’s decisions and let the vote proceed.
The NLRA, the federal law that the NLRB is tasked with enforcing, grants all workers the right to remove an unpopular union. Most restrictions manipulated by union bosses to halt decertification votes (such as the “successor bar” and “blocking charges”) are not established in its text but have been read into it by Big Labor-friendly Board Members under the Clinton and Obama administrations. Foundation staff attorneys have been fighting for workers for decades to eliminate these unfair, non-statutory limitations on workers’ rights to hold a vote to remove a union that has lost most workers’ support.
The NLRB is currently accepting comments on reforming the “blocking charge” doctrine and another non-statutory bar to decertification elections, the “voluntary recognition” bar. In comments to the Labor Board, Chase’s Apple Bus coworker Donald Johnson blasted the union’s ability to game the NLRB’s system to delay a decertification vote for years as “the most unfair and anti-democratic event I have been involved with in my entire life.” The window for submitting comments to the NLRB ends on January 9, 2020. Foundation attorneys have prepared comments they will file urging the Board to end both the “blocking charge” policy and “voluntary recognition” bar.
“The NLRB is tasked with protecting the right of employees to remove a union that is opposed by a majority of workers, but as this case shows us that right is undermined by non-statutory NLRB policies that allow workers to be trapped in union ranks for years at a time without even a decertification vote,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Though Ms. Chase and her coworkers are finally free from the coercive reign of a plainly unpopular Teamsters union, the NLRB must act quickly to roll back the undemocratic election bars and blocking charge policies that undermined their rights for almost three years.”
Seattle Housekeeper Wins NLRB Appeal Challenging Double Standard Promoting Coercive ‘Card Check’ Unionization
NLRB General Counsel finds Embassy Suites’ ‘neutrality agreement’ with UNITE HERE violated workers’ rights by illegally assisting union organizing drive
Washington, D.C. (December 3, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Seattle housekeeper Gladys Bryant has won an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in her case challenging the use of a “neutrality agreement” between union officials and her employer to impose a union on the hotel’s workers. Her case challenges a legal double standard that allowed union officials to impose union representation in her workplace through a coercive “card check” drive while obtaining assistance from her employer.
Bryant filed the unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE Local 8 union was installed at the Embassy Suites hotel in May 2018 through an oft-abused “card check” drive which bypassed the NLRB’s secret ballot election process. As part of the so-called “neutrality agreement,” Embassy Suites gave union organizers space in the hotel to meet and solicit employees. It also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from employees.
After NLRB Region 19 officials declined to prosecute the union or employer for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), Bryant appealed the case to the NLRB General Counsel in January 2019. In response to the appeal, the General Counsel found that the union’s “card check” recognition was tainted because Embassy Suites through the “neutrality agreement” provided significant aid to the union officials’ organizing efforts in violation of the NLRA.
The NLRB General Counsel agreed with Bryant’s Foundation attorneys that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid.” The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Bryant’s appeal successfully argued that the “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers. Thus, the General Counsel’s ruling applies “ministerial aid” standard consistently, no matter whether the employer’s assistance is in favor of or opposed to unionization.
After the tainted card check drive, Bryant and her coworkers collected enough signatures for a secret-ballot decertification vote to remove the union. However, they were denied that vote when the NLRB blocked their petition based on the “card check” recognition. The block was due to Lamons Gasket, a 2011 Obama NLRB ruling barring decertification for up to one year after unionization via card check. The Board is now accepting comments as to whether it should end or modify that “voluntary recognition bar.”
“It is long past time that the National Labor Relations Board put an end to this double standard that allows union bosses to abuse workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation Mark Mix. “The General Counsel is correct to finally recognize that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”
“As this case demonstrates, not only are union bosses willing to manipulate and ignore the rights of the workers they claim they want to ‘represent,’ their coercion has gone unchecked for far too long because of double standards in how the NLRB interprets the law,” Mix added.