Transdev Employees at the Fairfax Connector Ask National Labor Relations Board to End Contentious Policy Blocking Workers’ Right to Vote Out Unwanted Union Bosses
“Contract bar” manipulated by union bosses to maintain power in workplace despite valid employee-backed petition for vote to remove union
Washington, DC (January 14, 2021) – Two Transdev employees working at the Fairfax Connector are asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, to review their case, which seeks to remove Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 2 as their monopoly representative. The pair filed a Request for Review with the NLRB with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is based in Springfield, VA.
The petitioner, Amir Daoud, and proposed substitute petitioner, Sheila Currie, are asking that the full NLRB overturn the “contract bar.” That is a non-statutory NLRB policy which forbids employees from exercising their right to vote out an unpopular union for up to three years after their employer and union finalize a monopoly bargaining contract. Based on this restrictive policy, the NLRB Regional Director in Baltimore dismissed Daoud’s petition for an NLRB-supervised vote to eliminate the union, despite the fact that the petition was signed by the requisite number of his coworkers to trigger such a “decertification” vote.
Daoud and Currie’s Foundation-provided attorneys point out that the “contract bar” is utterly absent from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB enforces. They argue that it should be eliminated because it infringes on rank-and-file employees’ right under the NLRA to remove unions that lack majority support.
The Request for Review notes that in June 2020, after almost a year of talks, Transdev workers voted down a tentative agreement that had been presented to them by an OPEIU agent. Despite this, the Request for Review states, in October 2020 “a Union representative informed certain [employees] via teleconference that he had negotiated a new agreement” and “‘intended’ to sign it without a ratification vote.” He did not tell employees when he planned to sign the contract.
Following news of union officials’ plan to charge ahead with the contract without employee consent, Daoud filed the decertification petition on November 10, 2020. The Request for Review notes that he and his coworkers were only informed after the petition’s filing that the new contract had been signed by union agents on October 30 and Transdev representatives on October 31.
NLRB Region 5 in Baltimore dismissed the decertification petition on December 22, ruling that the “contract bar” applied because the employees’ decertification petition was submitted just after the new contract was signed, even though the employees had no way of knowing whether or when that signing would occur. This prompted Daoud and Currie to ask the NLRB in Washington to review their case. Because Daoud recently accepted a job with Transdev outside the OPEIU’s monopoly bargaining control, the Request for Review asks the NLRB to recognize Currie as the new petitioner to represent the interests of the workers who signed the decertification petition.
The Request for Review contends that the “contract bar” should be nixed because it is “contrary to the [NLRA’s] paramount objectives of employee self-representation and free choice” and “has the effect of forcing unwanted representation on employees for as long as three years.” The Request exposes the arbitrariness of the “contract bar,” pointing out that the NLRB Regional Director applied it “merely because the Union ‘won the race’ and signed the contract ten days” before Daoud submitted the petition, even though the petition clearly demonstrated the employees’ interest in voting the union out.
Foundation attorneys are currently litigating two other cases for workers whose right to vote out an unpopular union has been stymied by the “contract bar.” Most notably, Delaware Mountaire Farms employee Oscar Cruz Sosa and his coworkers are currently waiting for the NLRB to rule on their Foundation-backed case challenging United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses’ similar attempts to block their right to vote the union out.
In that case, UFCW officials claim that the “contract bar” should apply to bar any elections at Mountaire, despite an NLRB Regional Director allowing the vote based on his finding that the union contract contained an invalid forced dues clause. When the UFCW bosses asked the full NLRB to review the Region’s order allowing the election, Cruz Sosa filed a brief urging that, if the Board granted the review, it should use the opportunity to review the entire non-statutory “contract bar” policy. The Board is now doing just that. The UFCW union bosses are even arguing that the impounded ballots already cast by Mountaire workers should be destroyed, claiming the election should never have been held.
In Daoud and Currie’s Request for Review, Foundation attorneys ask that if the NLRB decides not to review their case, it should at least hold it in abeyance pending the ruling in Cruz Sosa’s similar case. Additionally, just a week ago, Foundation attorneys submitted a similar Request for Review to the NLRB for armored transport guards in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who are seeking to remove Private Security and Valuables Transit Professionals Union officials from their workplace.
“The facts of this case demonstrate exactly why the contract bar should be eliminated. After workers voted to reject an earlier proposed union contract, union bosses surreptitiously entered into a contract behind workers’ backs in an attempt to ‘game the system’ and use the ‘contract bar’ to block workers from voting them out,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The ‘contract bar’ is an affront to the federal labor law’s supposed protection of employee free choice. It merely serves to entrench self-serving union bosses even when there is clear evidence that the very workers that they claim to represent want them gone.”
San Juan Armored Transport Guard Asks Labor Board to Nix Controversial Policy Blocking Workers’ Votes to Remove Union
Union officials using “contract bar” to trap worker and his coworkers in union ranks despite valid employee-backed petition seeking secret-ballot election
Para leer este articulo en español, haga clic aquí.
San Juan, PR (January 8, 2021) – A San Juan-based guard employed by Ranger American Armored Services has just submitted a Request for Review to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. His Request asks that the full board take up his case seeking an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot election to remove the Private Security and Valuables Transit Professionals Union from his workplace. The Request for Review was filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The guard, Edwin Roman, asks the NLRB to review the Regional Director’s decision to block the election on the basis of the “contract bar,” a non-statutory NLRB policy which forbids employees from exercising their right to vote out an unpopular union for up to three years after an employer and union bosses have finalized a contract. The “contract bar” is not in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB is charged with enforcing. As Roman’s Request for Review argues, it should be ended because it only serves to entrench union bosses even though the NLRA explicitly guarantees workers the right to hold secret-ballot elections to “decertify” unions opposed by the majority.
As detailed in the Request for Review, on November 18, 2020, Roman submitted a petition signed by the requisite number of his coworkers needed to trigger an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot decertification election at his workplace. The Request for Review lists opposition to the “Union’s representation, its contract, and its requirement that” employees pay dues to union bosses or be fired as reasons that Roman filed the petition with his colleagues’ support. At this point, Roman and his coworkers had already been working under the current monopoly bargaining contract for about a year.
On December 21, 2020, the Director of NLRB Region 12 in Tampa, Florida, dismissed Roman’s petition at union officials’ behest, claiming that the “contract bar” prevents this decertification attempt. This prompted Roman to appeal his case to the full NLRB.
Roman’s Request for Review points out that the contract bar “has no basis in the text of” the NLRA, and that the NLRB’s original interpretations of the statute favored “full freedom of association and foreclos[ed] any contract bar.” According to the Request for Review, the contract bar only came about as the result of later union boss-friendly decisions by the Board.
The request also contends that the “contract bar contradicts the [NLRA’s] well-established ‘bedrock principles of employee free choice and majority rule’” by allowing a union to force its representation on employees “even in the face of objective evidence proving the union has lost majority support.” It also points out that the only restriction on workers’ right to hold a decertification election actually provided in the NLRA is the one-year “bar” after an election, making the non-statutory three-year “contract bar” a particularly egregious restriction on workers’ rights under the Act.
Roman and his colleagues are not the only employees fighting for the overturn of the “contract bar” with Foundation legal assistance. Delaware Mountaire Farms employee Oscar Cruz Sosa and his coworkers are currently waiting for the NLRB to rule on their case challenging United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses’ similar attempts to block their right to vote the union out.
In that case UFCW officials, despite receiving a decision from an NLRB Regional Director permitting the employees’ requested vote because the union contract contained an invalid forced dues clause, still claim that the “contract bar” should apply and that the Mountaire workers’ already-cast ballots should be destroyed. When the union asked the full NLRB to review the Region’s order, Cruz Sosa filed a brief arguing that if the Board granted the review it should use the opportunity to review the entire non-statutory “contract bar” policy, which the Board is doing.
“The ‘contract bar’ undermines one of the fundamental objectives of federal labor law: employee free choice. It makes rank-and-file employees prisoners of an unpopular union, merely because union honchos and an employer struck a contract between themselves,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This inevitably creates an environment in which, as Mr. Roman and his coworkers can certainly attest, it’s impossible to hold self-serving union bosses accountable because workers are denied the right to vote them out for three years.”
University of Puerto Rico Workers File for Court Injunction to Stop Union Officials’ Threats to Healthcare
Union officials threaten to take away healthcare benefits unless employees “authorize” years of prior illegal union dues deductions
Para leer este articulo en español, haga clic aquí.
San Juan, PR (January 4, 2021) – Employees of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the University of Puerto Rico Workers Union. The motion comes as part of the employees’ class action lawsuit against the University’s President in his official capacity and the union for illegally seizing dues from workers’ paychecks without their authorization.
Jose Ramos and Orlando Mendez originally filed their class action suit in May 2020 with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. The lawsuit contends that union and university officials are infringing on its employees’ rights as recognized in the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the High Court ruled that requiring public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment, and further held that union fees can only be taken from public employees with an affirmative waiver of the right not to pay.
Mendez and Ramos have been employed by the University as maintenance workers since 1997 and 1996, respectively. From then, the complaint says, university and union officials “have regarded Ramos and Mendez as members of the Union” and seized dues from their paychecks, despite neither ever having signed a union membership or dues deduction authorization form.
On December 29, 2020, the lawsuit was amended to include two additional plaintiffs, and to specifically challenge a recent attempt by union officials to coerce university workers into signing a document retroactively approving all previously deducted dues and consenting to an unspecified number of future deductions. According to the complaint, employees who do not comply with union officials’ demands that they sign this document will lose access to the employer provided healthcare plan the union administers.
On December 30, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction to block union officials’ efforts to force employees to choose between losing their healthcare and retroactively agreeing to union dues deductions taken in violation of their rights. The motion also asks the court to block and reverse union efforts to bar health insurance from employees who refuse to sign away their First Amendment rights.
The employees’ lawsuit contends that union and university officials violated the First Amendment by seizing dues from employee paychecks without written authorization, and by requiring employees to become full union members in violation of longstanding precedent. The lawsuit additionally seeks an order forbidding further enforcement of the unconstitutional schemes and requiring the union to refund to employees dues that were seized illegally “within the … 15-year statute of limitations period for breach of contract.”
“For years, University of Puerto Rico Workers Union bosses have gotten away with taking dues out of the pockets of those they claim to represent without ever getting their permission,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Now, instead of seeking to win workers’ voluntary support, they’re threatening to take away the healthcare of anyone who doesn’t meet their demands as they attempt to retain years of unconstitutional union dues deductions.”
“We hope the court will move quickly and grant the injunction to block union officials’ blatantly unconstitutional actions,” added Mix.
SDEA union officials used Facebook, Instagram posts to disparage teachers who backed a petition to hold a vote to remove the union from the school
San Diego, CA (December 28, 2020) – Gompers Preparatory Academy teachers filed unfair labor practice charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) for illegal retaliation and for interfering with their right to refrain from union membership. The charges come after union officials posted comments disparaging the teachers, Dr. Kristie Chiscano and Jessica Chapman, who supported an effort to hold a vote to remove the union from the school.
The charges were filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Gompers teachers had been free of union officials’ monopoly forced “representation” since 2005 when the school converted to a charter school, but in 2019 the teachers were unionized without a secret ballot election through a coercive card check certification.
Many Gompers teachers were unhappy with the sudden presence of union officials in their school. As Dr. Chiscano put it “I chose to work at a school that didn’t have a union and now they’ve come in and they’re running everything about my contract and my work.” Chiscano led the effort to collect signatures for a decertification petition for a vote to remove the union from Gompers. That petition was filed in January with legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys. However, union lawyers have so far blocked the vote from occurring despite significant support from teachers to remove the union.
Dr. Chiscano and Ms. Chapman were both leaders in the effort to decertify the union. According to their charges, in retaliation for their expressed opposition to the union, SDEA officials posted a slide presentation on its Instagram and Facebook accounts attacking the two for working with the Foundation to seek a decertification vote. California law makes it illegal for a union to intimidate or retaliate against employees who exercise their right to refrain from union membership.
The charges ask PERB to order the SDEA and its affiliates to post notices acknowledging that the posts about Dr. Chiscano and Ms. Chapman violated the teachers’ rights, and to remove the teachers’ names and photos from the slide presentation. Foundation staff attorneys also continue to represent Chiscano in her effort to obtain a PERB-supervised decertification election.
“Teachers should be free to express their opinions about union membership without union bosses’ harassment and intimidation tactics,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Gompers teachers deserve a vote free from union coercion, and educators who devote their lives to serving their students should be able to express their minds without fear of social media harassment.”
“If SDEA union bosses actually had the support of a majority of Gompers educators they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to block teachers from voting and attacking those speaking in favor of decertification,” added Mix.
Phoenix Cemex Transport Employees Hit Teamsters Union with Federal Charges for Illegally Collecting Fees for Non-Existent “Benefits”
Union officials refuse to refund money they took from employees’ pay for healthcare benefits the employees never received
Phoenix, AZ (December 21, 2020) – Phoenix-area Cemex Transport employee Joseph Conway has filed charges against Teamsters Local 104 union. He asserts that union officials refuse to return money that was deducted from his and his coworkers’ paychecks for healthcare benefits they never received. His charges were filed at National Labor Relations Board Region 28 in Phoenix with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
According to Conway’s charge, Teamsters union officials, who maintained monopoly bargaining power over his workplace until October of this year, took money from the pay of every bargaining unit employee in Conway’s workplace to go towards what the union bosses claimed was a union-sponsored healthcare plan.
The charge alleges that Conway and at least four of his other coworkers never received the promised benefits. Facing significant opposition from workers opposed to their so-called “representation,” in October union officials disclaimed interest in being the monopoly representatives at Conway’s workplace, but never gave back the money that was deducted from Conway and his coworkers’ paychecks.
After the union disclaimed interest, the charge notes, Conway called a Teamsters Local 104 union official to ask about getting a refund of the money taken from his pay. The union agent then probed Conway on whether he had signed a petition that had been circulated for a vote to remove the union. When Conway responded in the affirmative, the agent said he would not get a refund. The charge reports that when other employees phoned with similar inquiries, the union official hung up on them.
Conway’s Foundation-backed charge argues that the Teamsters bosses’ refusal to return the money deducted from his and other employees’ paychecks violates their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Act forbids union officials from discriminatorily denying promised benefits to employees who exercise their right to attempt to decertify a union they oppose.
“Teamsters bosses are violating the rights of Conway and his coworkers, who in addition to never receiving promised healthcare benefits are now being robbed blind because they exercised their right to seek a vote to remove the union,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys will fight for Conway and his coworkers until their rights are vindicated and their hard-earned money is returned.”
Honolulu Kaiser Permanente Employee Hits Local Union with Federal Charge for Illegal Union Dues Seizures
Union officials ignored two resignation requests, continue to unlawfully charge employee for union politics
Honolulu, HI (December 15, 2020) – Nina Chiu, an employee of the Kaiser Permanente branch in Kalihi, filed a federal charge against the UNITE HERE Local 5 union at her workplace. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys are providing her with free legal aid in pursuing her charge.
Chiu’s charge was filed at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 20 in San Francisco. The charge explains that she “sent two letters to the union within the last six months asserting” her rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck forbids union bosses from forcing employees who object to union membership to pay dues for any union activities not directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions, such as the union’s political expenditures. The NLRB has ruled that, under Beck, nonmembers must be provided an independent audit of the union’s breakdown of expenses.
Because Hawaii lacks Right to Work protections for its employees, Chiu can still be required to pay some money to the union as a condition of keeping her job. However, union officials must follow the requirements of the Beck decision if they compel employees to make union payments under threat of termination.
Chiu’s charge states that, even after submitting two letters exercising her Beck rights, she still “has not received a financial breakdown and is still being charged the equivalent of full dues.” Consequently, her charge argues, the UNITE HERE Local 5 union has breached Chiu’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees all workers the right to “refrain from any or all” union activities.
This is not the first time that Foundation staff attorneys have assisted workers whose Beck rights have been violated by UNITE HERE union officials. Most recently, in late October, Foundation attorneys won a settlement for foodservice workers at Portland, Oregon’s Lewis & Clark College, where UNITE HERE agents had impaired their ability to decide intelligently whether to choose union membership by failing to give them a good faith estimate of the amount by which their dues payments would be reduced if they abstained from membership. The Foundation-won settlement gives the employees there an opportunity to resign their memberships retroactively, and receive refunds for dues they paid in excess of the nonmember rate while misled by the union’s keeping them in the dark.
“Once again, UNITE HERE union bullies have been caught forcing dissenting employees into subsidizing the union’s agenda in clear violation of the rights of rank-and-file workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The willingness of union bosses to violate longstanding law just to line their own pockets demonstrates, once again, why Aloha State workers need the protection of a Right to Work law, which would make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary.”
Hamilton Ohio Employee Hits IUOE Union Bosses with Federal First Amendment Lawsuit Challenging Deceptive Forced Fee Scheme
Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision clearly forbids forced union fees for public employees, but IUOE bosses try to pass them off as “agreement administration fees”
Cincinnati, OH (December 14, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, City of Hamilton employee Timothy Crane is suing International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 20 union officials and the City of Hamilton for seizing a compulsory fee from his paycheck in violation of his First Amendment rights. His complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, contends that union bosses are infringing on his rights under the Janus v. AFSCME decision by forcing him to pay a so-called “agreement administration fee” equal to more than 90 percent of full union dues as a condition of his employment.
In the 2018 Foundation-won Janus decision, the High Court ruled that no public worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of getting or keeping a job. The Court also held that union dues or fees can only be deducted from a public employee’s paycheck if that employee clearly and affirmatively waives his or her right not to pay. Justice Alito wrote for the Court majority that “such a waiver cannot be presumed” by union or state officials.
Crane works for the City of Hamilton. He sent letters to IUOE union officials in both August and September of this year attempting to exercise his First Amendment Janus right to end dues deductions from his paycheck. After sending these two letters, he discovered that an “agreement administration fee” was now being taken from his pay by the City at the behest of IUOE union bosses.
Crane’s lawsuit points out that the most recent contract between the City of Hamilton and IUOE Local 20 requires employees who have revoked their dues deduction authorizations to pay compulsory agreement administration fees. The complaint contends that this fee is just a so-called “agency fee” – compulsory union payments charged to employees who refrain from formal union membership that were definitively outlawed by the Janus v. AFSCME decision – masquerading under a different name.
The suit urges the District Court to declare it unconstitutional for IUOE Local 20 and the City of Hamilton to force him to pay this compulsory union fee. Crane’s lawsuit also seeks a refund of all money that the union illegally took from his paycheck under the unconstitutional arrangement.
Since Janus was handed down by the Supreme Court, Foundation staff attorneys have already won favorable settlements in four cases for Buckeye State public workers who have challenged illegal union-created restrictions on the exercise of Janus First Amendment rights. In a July settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by four state workers, nearly 30,000 Ohio public employees were freed from an “escape period” scheme imposed by Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) union chiefs, which limited to just a handful of days every few years the time in which a public employee could exercise his or her Janus rights.
“IUOE bosses, who may have thought they were going to trick employees into funding their agenda against their will with this blatantly unconstitutional scheme, have now been caught red-handed,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Rank-and-file workers like Mr. Crane now see that IUOE officials are far more interested in keeping hard-earned employee cash flowing into their coffers than in respecting the First Amendment rights of the workers they claim to represent.”
Mix continued: “The string of Foundation victories for independent-minded Buckeye State employees who just want to exercise their First Amendment rights is not going to end here.”
Labor Board to Prosecute IUOE Union Officials for Restricting Rieth-Riley Workers’ Resignations and Dues Revocations
Workers already receiving $1,000+ refunds, Labor Board says that union officials used illegal barriers to prevent workers from ending dues payments
Detroit, MI (December 10, 2020) – In response to federal charges filed by three employees of Rieth-Riley Construction Company, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 7 in Detroit has just hit the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union with a second consolidated complaint for using unlawful resignation and revocation requirements to trap employees in unwanted membership and dues payments. The three employees are receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Absent settlement, the case will now go before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge. NLRB Region 7’s complaint comes as IUOE union bosses appear to be hurriedly refunding illegally-seized dues to workers, possibly to avoid further litigation on the issue. While the NLRB case to prosecute the union continues, some workers who had ended their memberships as early as 2019 are already reporting receiving checks from the union of up to four-figure sums, apparently to refund illegally-seized money, most likely in response to the Foundation-backed litigation.
The NLRB complaint consolidates the cases of Rieth-Riley employees Jesse London, Rob Nevins, and John Shipkosky, who each charged the union this year with ignoring their letters exercising their right to resign from the union and to stop any dues deductions. The complaint specifically says that union officials illegally required dues authorization revocations to be submitted by registered or certified mail, and additionally failed to inform employees that “revocation is effective at any time upon the expiration of” the union’s monopoly bargaining contract.
According to the complaint, the union’s enforcement of these restrictions violated their and their coworkers’ right to refrain from union activities guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The complaint now seeks a ruling from an NLRB Administrative Law Judge that will order union officials to “[m]ake whole any affected employees, for any financial loss” that resulted from the union’s illegal dues deduction scheme.
NLRB Region 7’s consolidated complaint also comes just weeks after Rieth-Riley employees submitted an emergency appeal in support of their effort to vote IUOE Local 324 bosses out of their workplace. They are challenging Region 7’s November 9 decision to suppress the ballots just hours before they were scheduled to be tallied, due to unverified charges IUOE bosses made against Rieth-Riley management. Foundation attorneys argue in the workers’ appeal that Region 7’s decision ignores new NLRB rules that require that employee votes be counted before such charges are dealt with.
“Operating Engineers union bosses were caught red-handed illegally seizing dues from Rieth-Riley workers in violation of their rights. Returning those ill-gotten funds is just the first step to fully vindicate the rights of IUOE’s victims,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys are proud to stand with the hardworking men and women of Rieth-Riley, including in their effort to have their votes counted to free themselves from unwanted union so-called ‘representation.’”