Regional NLRB official asked worker to amend the charge against SEIU following successful appeal, now dismisses specifically-requested charges
Washington, DC (February 23, 2021) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Seattle building services employee Roger White is appealing the dismissal of his case charging Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199NW officials with maintaining deceptive dues practices and illegally siphoning money from his paycheck.
White’s appeal follows the dismissal of his case by the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Seattle Regional Office, which was on track to issue a complaint against union officials as instructed by former NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb. The abrupt reversal on the case comes after President Biden’s unprecedented and legally groundless removal of Robb ten months before his term was supposed to end, and the President’s subsequent installation of union apologist Peter S. Ohr as NLRB “Acting General Counsel.”
Since his January installation, Ohr has ordered NLRB regional officials to cease prosecuting unions in several Foundation cases where workers accused union officials of illegal dues practices, or of using underhanded tactics to install themselves in workplaces without workers’ consent. In White’s case, Seattle NLRB officials have now dismissed accusations they had specifically asked White to include in amendments to his original charge, based on his successful first appeal in November 2020.
White charged SEIU bosses in April 2020 of seizing dues from his paycheck illegally after he twice attempted to exercise his right to end union membership and as a nonmember pay only the portion of dues directly related to bargaining. He also argued that his second request to end membership and pay reduced dues should have actually stopped dues deductions completely, because at the time there was a strike going on and there was no contract in effect between Swedish Medical Center (his employer) and SEIU 1199NW.
Because Washington State has not enacted Right to Work protections for its employees, White and his coworkers can be forced to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment when a contract so requiring is in effect. However, the fee is limited by the Foundation-won 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision to only the portion of union dues that is directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions, which excludes expenditures on political and lobbying activities.
Union officials must also follow certain Beck procedures before collecting such fees, such as providing workers an independent audit of the union’s expenses. While White’s case was being litigated, General Counsel Robb issued a memo ordering NLRB regional officials to prosecute unions whose officials failed to follow Beck procedures, but that memo and others protecting workers’ rights were rescinded by Ohr on February 1, 2021.
The NLRB Regional Director in Seattle initially threw out White’s charges, ruling that SEIU officials were not obliged to inform White that he was not required to pay union fees during a contract hiatus. Foundation attorneys appealed that decision to then-NLRB General Counsel Robb, arguing that the SEIU owed White a “duty of truth and honesty,” and decrying the fact that the SEIU was able to “‘hide the ball’ and continue collecting dues” during the contract hiatus despite White’s clear “notice that he want[ed] to disassociate” from the union as much as possible.
In response to the appeal, Robb agreed with the Foundation staff attorneys’ arguments on November 6, 2020, concluding union officials violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) 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 checkoff documents, which employees are pushed to sign to allow dues deductions, did not provide enough information to enable workers to make an informed decision on whether to opt-out of membership and full dues, violating the principles of Beck. Robb also found that the SEIU’s dues checkoff authorization form “may be interpreted to preclude employees from revoking their authorization upon expiration of the contract.”
Robb ordered NLRB Region 19 in Seattle to issue a complaint against SEIU officials for the violations, and the Regional Director asked Mr. White twice to amend his charge to cover everything that Robb had mentioned when he sustained White’s first appeal. However, following Biden’s termination of Robb and elevation of Ohr in his place, the Region 19 Director suddenly dismissed the case, undoing explicit instructions he had given White only months earlier. Foundation staff attorneys are now appealing this dismissal, arguing that the current administration’s agenda to protect union boss privileges has tainted the NLRB’s judgment.
“Biden sought to turn the NLRB, an independent agency, into a tool of his pro-forced unionism ideology by removing Peter Robb without precedent or legal basis, and installing a union boss puppet in his place. The repercussions of that action on workers’ rights are being felt every day by independent-minded employees across the country,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This has yielded some truly outrageous results: in Mr. White’s case, Seattle NLRB officials are now dismissing charges against SEIU 1199NW officials that they specifically told Mr. White to present to them.”
Mix continued: “Top SEIU bosses spent big to put Biden in the White House. Apparently their reward is a ‘get out of jail free’ card for their violations of the rights of independent-minded workers.”
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.