UFCW boss misinformed worker about his rights by claiming union membership was mandatory. Others retaliated with slurs and threats when worker defied strike
Quincy, MA (April 18, 2019) – A Massachusetts Stop & Shop employee filed federal unfair labor practice charges against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1459 alleging that a top union official blatantly misinformed him by telling him that he could not resign his union membership and return to work during a union-ordered strike or he would be fired. The charge was filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The charging employee has worked at Stop & Shop Supermarket Company since 2017. When he started the job, he became a member of UFCW Local 1459 as union officials led him to believe that union membership was a condition of employment.
Earlier in April, UFCW union officials ordered over 30,000 Shop & Stop grocery employees on strike in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The charging employee asked UFCW Local 1459 about his rights to continue working despite the union-ordered strike. In response, a top union official told him in writing that Stop & Shop is a “closed shop” and that he would lose his job if he resigned union membership and returned to work.
That threat contradicts federal law, which protects a worker’s right to resign his or her union membership at any time. Resignation protects a worker who wants to return to work despite a union strike. As a nonmember, he or she cannot legally be subjected to punitive union strike fines.
Additionally, when there is no union monopoly bargaining agreement in effect, as is the case for workplaces impacted by the UFCW’s strike against Stop & Shop, workers who resign from the union can immediately revoke any authorization for payment of union dues.
After being misled, the charging employee learned his rights and decided to return to work. His charges allege that since his return, he has been subjected to slurs based on sexual orientation, threats of violence, and other similar harassment by, or instigated by, UFCW Local 1459 union officials.
To combat the threats and violations of his rights, he sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. His charges state that the UFCW Local 1459 union official’s claim that he would be fired if he resigned union membership to return to work was “a blatant falsehood and misrepresentation of the law,” because employees have the right at any time to revoke their union memberships and resume work during a strike to support themselves and their families.
Moreover, under federal law unions must give workers clear notice of their right to refrain from union membership and pay reduced nonmember forced fees. The employee’s charges allege that union officials have never given him such notice. His charges also state that the union officials’ harassment in retaliation for his choice to return to work violates the union’s duty of fair representation.
“This worker is refusing to let union bosses bully him into submission through outright lies and threats simply because he has decided that continuing to work is in his best interest,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As is unfortunately common when union bosses instigate a work stoppage, union officials are again violating the rights of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’”
“Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to assist other workers who run into union misinformation and threats when they choose to exercise their right to return to work,” added Mix.
The National Right to Work Foundation released a special legal notice informing Stop & Shop employees of their rights during the union-ordered strike. The notice can be found at: https://www.nrtw.org/special-notice-for-new-england-based-employees-of-shop-stop/.
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.