In attempt to protect coercive powers over workers, CWA union lawyers now making last-minute attempt to intervene and delay case
Detroit, MI (September 9, 2020) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have just filed their brief on the merits in Michigan-based employee Veronica Rolader’s case charging AT&T officials with illegally deducting dues from her paycheck at the behest of Communications Workers of America (CWA) union bosses. The case seeks to overturn a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) precedent from 1979 that grants union bosses the power to limit to a narrow “window period” when workers may revoke their dues deduction authorization forms.
According to Rolader’s brief, in January 2000 she signed a form authorizing AT&T to deduct union dues from her paycheck and remit them to CWA bosses. Eighteen years later, in April 2018, the contract between AT&T and CWA officials expired. In June 2018, Rolader attempted to exercise her right under federal law to end her union membership and cease dues deductions from her paycheck, as union officials have no legal power to coerce dues from individual workers when there is no contract in effect.
Acting at the behest of CWA bosses, AT&T rejected this request by Rolader, writing that her request was “untimely” and that dues would continue to be deducted from her paycheck. Rolader tried again in December 2018, only to have her request denied as “untimely” once more the following January. Neither response apprised Rolader of the period in which union officials or AT&T would consider her request valid. On top of that, both of her letters to the union were submitted well before CWA brass and AT&T officials finalized a new monopoly bargaining contract in August 2019.
Rolader’s case challenges the NLRB’s 1979 decision in Frito-Lay, in which a 2-1 union boss-friendly NLRB majority ruled that union bosses can limit to a “window period” when an employee can revoke his or her dues checkoff, even during a contract hiatus. Her brief points out that the Labor Management Relations Act clearly declares that workers may revoke their dues checkoffs any time “beyond the termination date” of a union contract, and argues that the NLRB’s decision in Frito-Lay flies in the face of the statute’s plain text.
Rolader’s brief also relies on the fact that her 2018 attempts to cease dues deductions came after Michigan’s Right to Work law had gone into effect. Right to Work protections ensure that no worker can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to a union. Because Rolader only agreed to the dues deductions in 2000 when she was compelled to pay as a condition of employment, the brief maintains that she should have been allowed to revoke her dues deduction authorization at will once Michigan enacted its Right to Work law.
The brief additionally contests the other obstacles to revocation in the CWA policy that AT&T enforced. Those obstacles include failing to tell employees when their requests would be considered valid and petty rules requiring requests to cut off dues to be sent only by certified mail in individual envelopes.
Although CWA union officials earlier backed down from further litigation in this case by settling after the NLRB had moved to prosecute the union, they now seek to intervene in the case between Rolader and AT&T in an attempt to prevent or delay the NLRB from overruling the pro-union boss Frito-Lay decision. Foundation staff attorneys earlier this month filed a brief in opposition to the union’s belated motion to intervene, arguing that “the Union should not be allowed to hijack and delay this CA case at the midnight hour,” especially after they had already voluntarily opted-out of the case by settling.
“It’s outrageous that the NLRB’s forty-year-old decision in Frito-Lay continues to grant union bosses the privilege to keep siphoning dues out of the pockets of dissenting workers, even when the underlying ‘justification’ for the dues payments no longer exists,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB should overturn Frito-Lay and ensure that no worker can be trapped into funding a union against their will when there is not even a valid contract in effect between a union and employer.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.