Unite Here union bosses already backed down from separate charge filed by Lewis & Clark College employee challenging illegal forced fees demands
Portland, OR (March 8, 2019) – After worker Terry Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges over forced union dues, Unite Here Local 8 union officials backed down from unlawfully billing nonmembers for union fees they did not owe. Moreover, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint in a separate case brought by Denton and a coworker against Unite Here Local 8 challenging the union’s failure to disclose the amount of reduced compulsory nonmember fees.
The complaint comes after a new memo issued by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, in which Robb says that union officials under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) should disclose the amount of nonmember fees to enable employees to make an informed choice between full membership dues and reduced compulsory fees.
Terry Denton works for Bon Appetit at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She and her coworkers are under the monopoly bargaining representation of Unite Here Local 8 union officials, who unionized the workplace in May 2017 via a coercive “card check” campaign, an abuse-prone process that circumvents the protections employees have under an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.
Denton and several of her colleagues are not union members. Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, nonmembers can be required to pay union officials in order to work. However, workers cannot be required to fund activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, lobbying, or organizing.
Denton exercised her right to object to paying full union dues and funding union activities beyond what can be required. However, Unite Here Local 8 officials demanded that she and similarly situated employees pay more than the reduced compulsory fee required to keep their jobs. Union officials sent her and other nonmembers bills for union fees for months already paid, months not worked, and/or amounts more than or equal to full union membership dues. Union officials threatened the workers that if they did not pay the amount demanded they could be fired.
To protect her rights, Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In the Foundation-won Beck decision, the United States Supreme Court provided some limited protection by holding that workers cannot be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity.
After Denton filed her charges with the NLRB in January 2019, Unite Here Local 8 backed down from their initial demands by waiving fee payments for all nonmembers until November 2018. Union officials then sent out new bills reflecting the new policy and crediting payments that Denton previously made.
Additional charges brought against Unite Here Local 8 are ongoing. In August 2018, Denton and another employee, Alejandro Martinez Cuevas, filed unfair labor practice charges alleging that Unite Here Local 8 violated their rights by failing to provide employees under their monopoly bargaining contract with sufficient information to allow the workers to make an informed decision about whether to object to paying full union dues. The notices provided to employees who had not yet objected failed to include the amount of the reduction in fees for employees who object to paying full union dues.
The NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, consolidating Denton’s and Cuevas’ charges, in light of General Counsel Robb’s new memo. The memo urges the NLRB to overturn a ruling made by the Obama NLRB in 2014 that held unions do not have to inform a new employee of the specific amount of nonmember compulsory fees until the worker decides to object to union membership and full union dues.
“Ms. Denton stood up to union bosses’ coercive attempts to take advantage of her and other employees through illegal demands on their hard-earned money,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this shows that stronger legal protections are critical for the future of Oregon’s independent-minded workers. Union bosses incessantly abuse their forced-fees privileges at the expense of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’”
“A clear ruling by the NLRB is needed to protect workers from Big Labor’s tactics, but ultimately Oregon needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and financial support completely voluntary,” added Mix.
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.