11 Aug 2017

Case to End Public Sector Forced Dues Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By this time next year every government worker in America could be free from forced union dues if a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation lawsuit for an Illinois state employee is successful.

Mark Janus, a state-employed child support specialist, seeks a ruling that forcing government employees to pay money to union officials to keep their jobs violates the First Amendment.

In June, staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation and Liberty Justice Center filed a writ of certiorari petition with the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME. If the Court agrees in September to take the case, a ruling would be likely by June 2018.

“Requiring public servants to subsidize union officials’ speech is incompatible with the First Amendment. This petition asks the Supreme Court to take up this case and revisit a nearly half-century-old mistake that led to an anomaly in First Amendment jurisprudence,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented.

The Janus v. AFSCME case stems from Obama Labor Board Majority an executive order issued by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on February 9, 2015. It prohibited state agencies from requiring nonmember state employees to pay union fees, and directed that such the resolution of litigation. On the same day, Rauner filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois asking for a declaratory judgment that the forced fee provisions violate the First Amendment and that his executive order was valid.

In March 2015, staff attorneys from the Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center moved for Mark Janus to intervene in the case. Janus’ complaint requested not only a declaratory judgment but also an injunction and damages from the unions for the compelled fees. The court granted Janus’ motion to intervene which allowed the suit to continue to move forward even after the court ruled that Governor Rauner lacked the standing to pursue the lawsuit.

On July 2, 2015, the Illinois Attorney General asked the district court to stay the case pending the Supreme Court’s decision in a case with similar constitutional issues at stake, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

The Supreme Court ultimately deadlocked 4-4 on Friedrichs, following Justice Scalia’s death, allowing the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education precedent to stand for the time being. In Abood, the Court held that, although union officials could not constitutionally spend objectors’ funds for some political and ideological activities, unions could require fees to subsidize collective bargaining and contract administration with government employers.

Soon after the deadlock in Friedrichs, a district court judge dismissed Janus, allowing the case to be appealed to the Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, citing Abood, thus allowing Janus to be petitioned to the Supreme Court.

Janus follows a series of Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate a willingness by the Supreme Court to reconsider Abood and apply strict scrutiny to the constitutionality of forced union fees.

In Knox v. SEIU, brought by Foundation staff attorneys for California employees, the Supreme Court began to question Abood’s underpinnings. The Court in 2012 held in Knox that union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers’ forced union fees for special assessments or dues increases that include union politicking.

The opinion Justice Samuel Alito authored left the door open to challenge all forced union fees as a violation of the First Amendment. Alito wrote that previous Supreme Court rulings allowing forced fees “have substantially impinged upon the First Amendment rights of nonmembers.”

The Foundation also assisted a group of Illinois home care providers in challenging a state scheme authorizing Service Employees International Union officials to require the providers to pay union dues or fees. Foundation attorneys took the case, Harris v. Quinn, to the Supreme Court, which held in 2014 that the forced-dues requirement violated the First Amendment.

In the Court’s opinion in Harris, Justice Alito expanded his criticism of forced union fees writing, “Except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”

Janus v. AFSCME is on track for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear it at its conference before the next term begins in the fall. If four justices agree, the Court could announce soon after its September 25 conference whether it will hear the case.

Foundation staff attorneys also filed another federal lawsuit seeking to end union bosses’ forced-dues powers to demand union fees as a condition of employment. The case, Keller v. Shorba, was filed for two Minnesota state employees. These employees, Carrie Keller and Elizabeth Zeien, are employed by the State of Minnesota Court System. When they started working for the State, neither was a union member, and they both negotiated their own terms and conditions of employment and salaries, free from union interference.

In 2015, union officials started proceedings to force state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, where they could be required to pay union dues and fees. In March 2017, Minnesota state officials bowed to the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters-controlled bargaining unit without the employees’ permission or desire. Keller, Zeien, and the other employees were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the new scheme.

Before being forced under the union contract, Keller and Zeien had negotiated pay scales and benefits for themselves that equaled or exceeded what they are forced to accept under the union-mandated
contract. The lower compensation under the union contract and the imposition of mandatory union fees led Keller and Zeien to approach the Foundation for assistance in challenging the forced unionization scheme.

“These two workers were happily working and successfully representing themselves in dealing with their employer until Teamsters officials sought to bolster their forced-dues ranks even though it meant a step back in Keller and Zeien’s working conditions,” said Ray LaJeunesse, Vice President and Legal Director of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case is a prime example of why it is wrong to force employees to pay money to a union for representation they don’t want, never asked for, and frequently would be better off without.”

Keller and Zeien’s case is one of six ongoing challenges, in addition to Janus, brought by Foundation staff attorneys across the country challenging the constitutionality of forced union fees.

7 Aug 2017

Blog Post: Big Labor-Backed Senator Pushing Double Standard on NLRB Recusals

Posted in Blog

In a recent post on the Federalist Society website, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Vice President Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse responded to demands by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) that Trump’s lone remaining current NLRB nominee recuse himself from numerous potential cases:

“Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has suggested that Emanuel should ‘also sit out any case involving the hotly contested question of whether employers can force their workers to sign class action waivers,’ because he ‘has represented parties on the class action waiver issue in a case before the board, . . . his firm is counsel in a number of others . . . and he has also co-written briefs in U.S. Supreme Court cases arguing that the agreements aren’t unlawful restraints on employees’ right to engage in collective activity.’ (Emphasis added.)

However, unless the standards for recusal are more stringent for nominees of President Trump than they were for nominees of President Barack Obama, Emanuel can ethically ignore Senator Warren’s suggestion and need not recuse himself in all class-action waiver cases, even though that is a ‘hotly contested’ issue.”

The post goes on to cite Obama NLRB Member Craig Becker, who refused to recuse himself from a case to end protections for employees who had union monopoly bargaining imposed through the coercive and unreliable “card check” scheme. The Foundation’s press release on that case can be found here. Becker had previously weighed in on the issue as counsel for the AFL-CIO but that didn’t stop him from recusing himself when the NLRB voted 3-2 to end employees’ ability to force a secret ballot vote after a union was installed through card check.

To read the whole post, please click here.

31 Jul 2017

Verizon Worker Hits CWA Union Officials with Labor Board Charges for Illegal $22,000 Retaliatory Fine

Posted in News Releases

Union officials continue to illegally levy fines against Verizon employees who exercised right to work despite union boss-initiated strike

New York, NY (July 31, 2017) – A Brooklyn Verizon employee has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against Communications Workers of America (CWA) union officials for violating federal labor law after she exercised her right to resign her union membership during a high-profile strike in May 2016. The charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal assistance provided by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

In April 2016, CWA union officials began a coordinated work stoppage at Verizon facilities and ordered workers up and down the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia, to abandon their jobs. CWA Local 1109, which is the subject of the ULP charges, participated in the multi-state strike.

Soon after CWA union officials ordered the strike, Verizon worker Pamela Ivy, who filed the unfair labor practice charges, returned to work on April 16. On April 19, she officially resigned union membership in a letter mailed to union officials. Under federal law, workers cannot be compelled to join a union-boss ordered strike.

However, under a 1972 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, workers must resign their formal union membership before to returning to work to protect themselves from court-enforceable union fines. Despite the fact that Ivy resigned on April 19, union officials are attempting to fine her for working after that date. Specifically, it has fined her approximately $22,000 for working through the end of May.

“Once again union officers are blatantly violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It is outrageous that union officials are resorting to this type of ugly retaliation to ‘punish’ workers who chose to return to work in order to provide for themselves and their families.”

“The Foundation has successfully defended a number of Verizon workers in the New York area who were also threatened with sham trials and five-figure illegal fines, and we are eager to assist them and any other workers in defending their workplace rights,” added Mix.

Before this case, Foundation staff attorneys have defended fifteen Verizon workers from retaliation by CWA and IBEW union officials after the April 2016 East Coast strike. Seven of those workers were fined up to $14,000 each for exercising their federally protected rights. The remaining eight were threatened by union bosses with “union discipline” that would have resulted in similar fines. In eleven of those cases, union officials have already been forced to settle with the workers and rescind the illegal strike fines and threats.
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26 Jul 2017

Kentucky Workers Win Motion to Intervene to Defend Bluegrass State Right to Work Law

Posted in News Releases

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys help Kentucky workers defend law to ensure union membership and dues payment remain voluntary

Frankfort, KY (July 26, 2017) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Kentucky workers have won a motion to intervene in the recently filed Big Labor-backed lawsuit attacking Kentucky’s new Right to Work law.

“This ruling ensures that Kentucky workers, whose rights are protected by Kentucky’s new Right to Work law, can participate in the defense of the law,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Kentucky union bosses are offering spurious legal arguments in an attempt to restore their power to have workers fired for refusing to pay part of their hard-earned paycheck to a union they don’t support, and this ruling ensures that the Court will hear from pro-Right to Work Kentucky employees.”

For more information please refer to our June 29, 2017 press release on the motion to intervene.

21 Jul 2017

Michigan Welder Forces UAW Bosses to Settle Case for Illegal Discrimination and Retaliation

Posted in News Releases

Union officials prompted employer to illegally decrease pay of worker who exercised right to resign from union under Michigan’s Right to Work law

Ludington, MI (July 21, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Richard Dettman, a Ludington, MI welder, has won a settlement against United Autoworkers, Local 811 (UAW, Local 811) union officials and his employer Harsco Rail. The settlement dictates that Union officials and Harsco amend their collective bargaining agreement, as well as pay additional wages to Mr. Dettman for hours, worked between March 13 and April 23, 2017.

Since 1992, Dettman has worked as a Harsco welder and was a UAW member, but in February 2017 he exercised his right to resign his union membership. He had achieved “Journeyman” status because of his long tenure, which guaranteed him a $0.75 per hour premium based on the workplace contract. An employee’s “Journeyman” card is granted after years of apprenticeship or completion of work related qualifications.

Shortly after his resignation, union officials retaliated against Dettman by stripping him of his “Journeyman” card, and Harsco Rail lowered his wages under the union boss-negotiated monopoly bargaining contract. This violated not only the National Labor Relations Act but is contrary to Michigan’s Right to Work protections.

In response to the illegal retaliation, Dettman filed federal unfair labor practice charges against both the UAW and Harsco with the National Labor Relations Board, utilizing free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Faced with clear evidence that they had violated Dettman’s legal rights, UAW and Harsco officials settled the case.
Harsco and UAW officials agreed to pay Dettman back wages for hours worked during March-April 2017. But the case was also a victory for all Harsco employees. Harsco and Union officials amended their monopoly bargaining agreement to respect Michigan’s Right to Work law. The agreement now allows any employee, union affiliated or not, to apply for and receive the Journeyman premium if they meet certain requirements.

“Rather than operating as an organization workers would want to join voluntarily, UAW officials resorted to illegal tactics against a worker who bravely exercised his rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As this case shows, passing Right to Work laws is only the first step in protecting the workplace rights of all workers. Without stringent enforcement of the law, greedy union bosses will do everything they can, including lowering workers’ wages, to stop workers from exercising their rights and resigning their union membership.”

18 Jul 2017

National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice to Nissan Employees in Mississippi Facing UAW Unionization Vote

Posted in News Releases

Foundation offers free legal aid to Nissan Canton employees facing UAW coercion and pressure tactics in run up to vote

Canton, MS (July 18, 2017) – Recently, United Autoworkers (UAW) union officials announced a push to impose monopoly control over all front-line employees at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. In light of the tactics union organizers frequently utilize while pushing for monopoly bargaining powers over workers, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a special legal notice for Nissan Canton workers.

Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation released the following statement regarding the notice and offer of free legal aid:

“UAW officials in Detroit have spent millions of dollars attempting to unionize this plant and others in Right to Work states where auto manufacturing is thriving. In Canton, UAW organizers failed in 2013, but now UAW union officials are once again targeting Canton as they look for new sources of revenue following the loss over two-thirds of their members in recent decades.

“Workers facing UAW organizing drives in the past have endured intimidation, misleading statements, and pressure tactics. Because of this, the National Right to Work Foundation wants every Canton Nissan employee to know they have a place to turn for free legal if they face such tactics or have a question about their right to oppose UAW monopoly representation in the run up to the vote.”

The legal notice details what is at stake in the vote and offers free legal aid to employees facing possible illegal conduct by UAW officials or their agents. The full notice can be found online at: http://www.nrtw.org/NissanCanton.

Affected employees may also call the Foundation’s legal hotline toll-free at 1-800-336-3600 or contact the Foundation online at http://www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid to request free legal assistance.

13 Jul 2017

Missouri Workers Ask MO Supreme Court to Review Misleading Anti-Right to Work Ballot Language

Posted in News Releases

Workers opposed to forced union dues appeal ruling allowing deceptive ballot language for union boss-backed constitutional amendments

St. Louis, MO (July 13, 2017) – Yesterday, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an appeal for a group of Missouri workers asking the state Supreme Court to review a lower court decision permitting misleading ballot language on a series of union boss-backed constitutional amendments designed to overturn the state’s recently enacted Right to Work law.

On June 27, 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling on potential 2018 ballot amendments, determining that most of the amendments addressing the Right to Work law enacted in February adequately described the ballot propositions, even though none mentioned the recently-passed Right to Work law.

In December, Mike Louis, the Missouri AFL-CIO’s top official, submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State ten proposed amendments to the state constitution. Each seeks to overturn Missouri’s Right to Work law enacted in February. These amendments contain language that is confusing and misleading.
The language was approved by outgoing Secretary of State Jason Kander, who ran a failed U.S. Senate campaign that was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in union contributions. He approved the ballot language just hours before vacating office, ignoring the fact that none of the petitions even mentioned the Right to Work law that they are designed to nullify. One or more of the amendments could appear on the 2018 ballot if union organizers obtain a sufficient number of signatures.

Foundation staff attorneys argued that Kander’s summary statements contained misleading and insufficient language. In March, Judge Jon Beetem of the Cole County Circuit Court agreed, ruling that the proposed language was “unclear and insufficient” to accurately reflect that the amendments — if passed — would nullify the Right to Work law. Judge Beetem re-wrote the summary statements to provide a balanced and accurate description of the effect of the proposed amendments.

However, Judge Beetem’s decision was overturned by the Missouri Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruled that Kander’s summary statements for eight of the ten amendments contained sufficient language, while two needed minor revisions. The court also noted that it was an unusual case as it was the first occurrence of the legislature enacting a law that was simultaneously being addressed by the Secretary of State.

If any of the Big Labor-backed constitutional amendments are put on the ballot and approved by the voters, they would repeal the new Right to Work law and block future passage of any state legislation to protect workers from mandatory union fees. Any future attempt to pass Right to Work would first require another amendment of the state constitution.

“Big Labor continues to resort to any tactic in an attempt to block Missouri’s new Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Big Labor knows that the citizens of Missouri believe it is wrong for an employee to be fired simply for refusing to pay union dues or fees to a union boss. That’s why the union bosses are so intent on confusing voters about their goal of restoring their forced dues powers.”

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also assisting Missouri employees in challenging misleading language in a repeal referendum being pushed by Missouri union bosses. In that case, not only was the Secretary of State’s language misleading, but it also included grammatical errors, something the judge noted when he rewrote it in that case.

11 Jul 2017

Care Providers Ask High Court to Hear Forced ‘Representation’ Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C – In early June, staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Liberty Justice Center petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Hill v. SEIU. The case seeks to strike down a compulsory unionism scheme that grants Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials exclusive monopoly “bargaining” powers with Illinois state government for thousands of Illinois caregivers – including many who never joined the union and oppose the union’s so-called ‘representation.’

In the petition to the Court for six Illinois personal-care and childcare providers, Foundation staff attorneys contend that the state law infringes on the providers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to associate with a union they do not wish to join or support. Granting the union exclusive power to deal with the State of Illinois over caregiving practices violates the caregivers’ right to choose with whom they associate to petition their own government.

The caregivers’ petition to the Supreme Court in Hill follows the National Right to Work Foundation’s landmark 2014 Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, which was also filed for several homebased Illinois care providers. That decision prohibited union officials from collecting mandatory dues or fees from home-based caregivers.

The Hill petition argues that, although the Harris case dealt with compelled fees, because the Court ruled that the state’s justification for mandatory fees was insufficient under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court should strike down the compelled association on the same grounds.

The petition asks the Court to take the case so that it can apply the same standard to the First Amendment infringements created when state law forces home care providers to accept a government- appointed monopoly union agent against their will. Foundation staff attorneys have brought similar challenges on behalf of home and childcare providers in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington State.

“It is outrageous that across the country state laws force home and childcare providers to accept unwanted ‘representation’ from a union they have no interest in joining or supporting,” commented Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “This is a clear violation of providers’ freedom of association. We are hopeful that this case will build on the Foundation’s landmark 2014 victory in Harris v. Quinn and end these corrupt forced-unionism schemes for good.”

Like the other Foundation case petitioned to the Court on the same day, Janus v. AFSCME, Hill v. SEIU is on track for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear it at its conference before the next term begins in the fall.

If four justices agree, the Supreme Court could announce soon after its September 25 conference that it will hear the case. The petition also argues that if the Court doesn’t take the Hill case right away, it should at least hold it pending a decision in the Janus case.

29 Jun 2017

Kentucky Workers Move to Defend Bluegrass State Right to Work Law

Posted in News Releases

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys help Kentucky workers defend law to ensure union membership and dues payment remain voluntary

Frankfort, KY (June 29, 2017) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Kentucky workers has filed a motion to intervene in the recently filed union-backed lawsuit attacking Kentucky’s new Right to Work law.

These pro-Right to Work Kentuckians wish to intervene to defend the law because their rights are at stake as workers’ who could be forced to pay union dues or fees without the protections of the Right to Work law which was signed into law in January. In addition to protecting workers freedom of choice when it comes to financial support for union activities, the law has been cited as a reason for historic levels of investment and job creation in the Commonwealth in the months since its passage.

The workers have chosen to intervene to support the law because they believe that it is their right to be free from compulsory unionism, and as workers currently employed in Kentucky, they may suffer from direct harm if union lawyers win their case. In the workers’ motion, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys argue that various union claims to overturn the Right to Work law have been correctly rejected by courts in other states.

Although the State of Kentucky is already defending the law in the case, the motion notes that these workers have a special interest in defending Right to Work and their attorneys can offer legal arguments distinct from those raised by state lawyers.

“Big Labor’s newest attack on the Right to Work comes in a state where there is dramatic support for the measure, and where the citizens are already starting to see the benefit of living in a Right to Work state,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “That’s why we’re committed to defending the rights of workers against any attempt to block or overturn Kentucky’s law making union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary.”

“Big Labor lawyers have been working overtime in recent years, unsuccessfully attempting to slow the spread of Right to Work and restore union bosses’ forced-dues powers,” continued Mix. “If union bosses spent more time making workers want to join a union voluntarily instead of seeking legal loopholes to keep them trapped into paying dues, maybe they wouldn’t fear the choice that Right to Work provides workers so much.”

27 Jun 2017

Massachusetts Educators Ask State High Court to Take Legal Challenge to Public Sector Forced Union Dues

Posted in News Releases

Case argues forcing state employees to subsidize union officials’ speech violates First Amendment protections

Boston, MA (June 27, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Massachusetts educators are asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to hear their case challenging payments they are currently forced to make to union officials.

In 2014, four University of Massachusetts and Hanover School Committee educators filed a series of prohibited practice charges with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) against their employers and the union that holds monopoly bargaining contracts at their facilities. The charges challenge the constitutionality of the compulsory union fees that they are forced to pay.

The four plaintiffs have chosen to refuse union membership, but all must pay fees to National Educators Association union officials as a condition of their employment. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Dr. Ben Branch, is a Finance professor. His colleague and fellow plaintiff, Dr. Curtiss Conner, is a Chemistry professor, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.

Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools. She had the union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempt to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and push to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.

All of these employees believe they would be better off without union representation and desire to be released from paying for the unwanted representation. Their charges at the Massachusetts DLR were dismissed on February 23, 2015, but only recently did the DLR formally transmit the record to the Court of Appeals.

Foundation staff attorneys now seek direct review of the educators’ case by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Ultimately the issue of the constitutionality of forced union fees for public employees will have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“These are dedicated teachers and professors who are being forced to pay dues and fees to union bosses who do not have their best interests in mind,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The fact that one of these educators had to pay forced fees to union officials, while the same officials were pushing for her termination, demonstrates the injustice of mandatory union payments for employees who never asked for or wanted union officials’ so-called ‘representation.’”

In addition to this case, Foundation staff attorneys have six other cases in federal court seeking a ruling that forced union payments for public employees violate the First Amendment. One of those cases, Janus v. AFSCME, is currently at the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.