NLRB top prosecutor says SEIU officials illegally kept employees in the dark about their legal right not to pay union fees during contract hiatus
Washington, DC (November 11, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Roger White won an appeal to the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in his case against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW.
In mid-January 2020, White sent union officials a letter resigning his membership and invoking his U.S Supreme Court-won Beck right to pay reduced union fees. The union admitted that more than one of every three dollars it collects were spent on political and nonrepresentational activities, but failed to inform him and others that, due to a contract hiatus then in effect, nonmember employees actually owed no dues or fees at all because no forced union fee contract was in effect.
White filed charges in April, asserting SEIU officials violated the National Labor Relations act by not informing him he was not required to pay any union fees during a contract hiatus.
After the Seattle NLRB Regional Director brushed aside SEIU officials’ obligation to inform White that he could not legally be required to pay any union fees, Foundation attorneys filed an appeal to the Board’s General Counsel, arguing the union owed White a “duty of truth and honesty” and should have made it clear he had no obligation to pay.
In response to the appeal, the General Counsel agreed with the Foundation staff attorneys’ arguments, saying union officials violated the National Labor Relations Act by keeping White in the dark about his rights during the contract hiatus.
The General Counsel further found that the union had maintained a “confusing and ambiguous Membership Application, Voluntary Check-Off Authorization and Payroll Deduction document.” These documents, which employees are pushed to sign to allow dues deductions, did not provide enough information to make an informed decision about union membership.
Finally, the General Counsel found that the SEIU’s dues check-off authorization form “may be interpreted to preclude employees from revoking their authorization upon expiration of the contract.” Authorizing dues payments is not a permanent decision, but SEIU’s contract does not make that clear.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW has faced repeated legal challenges to its membership practices. Two other Swedish Medical Center employees, Daniel Dalison and NancyEllen Elster, filed charges against the SEIU local for failing to respect the rights guaranteed to them by Beck. Elster won a unit-wide settlement in October 2019 after NLRB Region 19 found merit to her charges that union officials had failed to give a proper Beck notice to employees, and had denied her request to pay the reduced dues amount under Beck.
Following the General Council’s ruling, the case is back with the Regional Director for further action. If a settlement is not reached between the SEIU and White, the Regional Director will issue a complaint against the SEIU for violating the law in preparation for a trial before an NLRB administrative law judge.
“Once again, Seattle SEIU bosses’ have used unfair and deceptive tactics to violate workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Despite repeated legal challenges, SEIU officials have demonstrated their determination to keep workers in the dark about their legal rights, rather than give workers all the facts before making a decision regarding union membership and financial support.”
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.