Michigan Employee Asks NLRB to End Policy Permitting Employers and Union Bosses to Coerce Dues Payments Even in Absence of Union Contract
In attempt to protect coercive powers over workers, CWA union lawyers now making last-minute attempt to intervene and delay case
Detroit, MI (September 9, 2020) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have just filed their brief on the merits in Michigan-based employee Veronica Rolader’s case charging AT&T officials with illegally deducting dues from her paycheck at the behest of Communications Workers of America (CWA) union bosses. The case seeks to overturn a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) precedent from 1979 that grants union bosses the power to limit to a narrow “window period” when workers may revoke their dues deduction authorization forms.
According to Rolader’s brief, in January 2000 she signed a form authorizing AT&T to deduct union dues from her paycheck and remit them to CWA bosses. Eighteen years later, in April 2018, the contract between AT&T and CWA officials expired. In June 2018, Rolader attempted to exercise her right under federal law to end her union membership and cease dues deductions from her paycheck, as union officials have no legal power to coerce dues from individual workers when there is no contract in effect.
Acting at the behest of CWA bosses, AT&T rejected this request by Rolader, writing that her request was “untimely” and that dues would continue to be deducted from her paycheck. Rolader tried again in December 2018, only to have her request denied as “untimely” once more the following January. Neither response apprised Rolader of the period in which union officials or AT&T would consider her request valid. On top of that, both of her letters to the union were submitted well before CWA brass and AT&T officials finalized a new monopoly bargaining contract in August 2019.
Rolader’s case challenges the NLRB’s 1979 decision in Frito-Lay, in which a 2-1 union boss-friendly NLRB majority ruled that union bosses can limit to a “window period” when an employee can revoke his or her dues checkoff, even during a contract hiatus. Her brief points out that the Labor Management Relations Act clearly declares that workers may revoke their dues checkoffs any time “beyond the termination date” of a union contract, and argues that the NLRB’s decision in Frito-Lay flies in the face of the statute’s plain text.
Rolader’s brief also relies on the fact that her 2018 attempts to cease dues deductions came after Michigan’s Right to Work law had gone into effect. Right to Work protections ensure that no worker can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to a union. Because Rolader only agreed to the dues deductions in 2000 when she was compelled to pay as a condition of employment, the brief maintains that she should have been allowed to revoke her dues deduction authorization at will once Michigan enacted its Right to Work law.
The brief additionally contests the other obstacles to revocation in the CWA policy that AT&T enforced. Those obstacles include failing to tell employees when their requests would be considered valid and petty rules requiring requests to cut off dues to be sent only by certified mail in individual envelopes.
Although CWA union officials earlier backed down from further litigation in this case by settling after the NLRB had moved to prosecute the union, they now seek to intervene in the case between Rolader and AT&T in an attempt to prevent or delay the NLRB from overruling the pro-union boss Frito-Lay decision. Foundation staff attorneys earlier this month filed a brief in opposition to the union’s belated motion to intervene, arguing that “the Union should not be allowed to hijack and delay this CA case at the midnight hour,” especially after they had already voluntarily opted-out of the case by settling.
“It’s outrageous that the NLRB’s forty-year-old decision in Frito-Lay continues to grant union bosses the privilege to keep siphoning dues out of the pockets of dissenting workers, even when the underlying ‘justification’ for the dues payments no longer exists,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB should overturn Frito-Lay and ensure that no worker can be trapped into funding a union against their will when there is not even a valid contract in effect between a union and employer.”
National Right to Work President Emphasizes Worker Freedom, Coming Challenges in Labor Day 2020 Statement
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of Labor Day 2020:
On this Labor Day, as our country strives to reopen and recover, we should all remember the sacrifices that America’s working men and women – including shelf stockers, delivery drivers, nurses, and other frontline workers – continue to make so our country can get through these uniquely challenging times. Many will pay lip service to honoring workers, but it will ring hollow absent a commitment to respect workers’ individual rights and trust each worker to decide for themselves what private organizations, including labor unions, to associate with or subsidize.
Thankfully, in the past decade America’s workers have seen significant advances in that field. The United States Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, argued and won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, safeguarded the First Amendment right of every public worker to choose for themselves whether or not to fund a labor union. And since 2012, five new states have enacted Right to Work laws – meaning a majority of states now protect that same fundamental freedom for private sector workers. Not since the 1950s have we seen such a large expansion of state Right to Work laws in one decade.
Meanwhile, at the urging of workers represented by Foundation staff attorneys, the National Labor Relations Board continues to eliminate policies that trap workers in unwanted union ranks for months or even years, even when an overwhelming majority wants the union out of their workplace. These are significant advances in employee freedom, but there remains much more to do.
Millions of Americans can still be fired for refusing to pay union bosses they don’t want and never asked for. Plus, even where the law protects workers from forced union dues it often takes vigilant legal enforcement to get union officials to respect those rights. Meanwhile millions more American workers are forced to accept the one-size-fits-all “representation” of these union bosses, even if they think they would be better off without it.
And Big Labor’s top officials in their shiny multi-million-dollar headquarters continue to double down on compulsion. Instead of earning the voluntary support of those whom they claim to represent like private organizations, union bosses continue to look to government to grant them more special powers to compel workers to associate with unions against their will.
This is especially demonstrated by the overwhelming forced-dues-funded support from top union bosses for Joe Biden, whose platform includes wiping out every state Right to Work law by federal fiat, authorizing federal bureaucrats to impose forced dues contracts over the objections of both businesses and individual workers, and by mandating the abuse-prone “card check” process so union bosses can corral millions of workers into unions without even a secret-ballot vote.
But the American people know this is not the future workers want or deserve – they overwhelmingly agree with the Right to Work principle that no employee should be forced to join or support a union as a condition of keeping their jobs.
So this Labor Day, and come November, think back to the hardworking individuals who served you throughout the pandemic and remember: They deserve a choice. Let’s celebrate American workers by being vigilant for attempts to undercut their freedoms.
The National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision allows public employees to stop paying dues or fees to a union at any time they choose. Janus affirmed that the First Amendment protects government workers from supporting a union against their wishes.
But ever since the Janus decision in June 2018, many union bosses have refused to comply with the High Court’s decision. So Foundation staff attorneys have filed dozens of cases across the country to enforce the Janus decision and compel union bosses to respect the First Amendment rights of the workers they claim to “represent.”
Journalist Mark Tapscott recently reported on a number of these cases for The Epoch Times, including a newly filed case for a police officer serving on the front lines in Las Vegas:
Las Vegas Police Officer Melodie DePierro is the latest in a growing line of public sector employees suing in federal court to demand recognition of their rights under a 2018 Supreme Court decision.
DePierro’s action was filed in the U.S. District Court for Nevada against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) and the local Police Protective Association (PPA) union.
In Janus v American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) decided by a 5-4 vote in June 2018, the high court ruled that public sector employees cannot be forced to pay union dues in the form of agency fees without being given a chance to consent or refuse the deduction.
DePierro noted in her suit that the department’s monopoly bargaining agreement with the union only allowed a 20-day window of opportunity to request agency fee refunds and that she had never agreed to the deduction in the first place.
Right-to-Work advocates cheered Janus as a landmark decision that would prompt millions of employees at all levels of government to demand an end to hundreds of millions of dollars in agency fees that helped fund partisan union political activities with which they disagreed.
“Instead of respecting her First Amendment Janus rights, PPA union bosses have decided to keep imposing an unconstitutional policy on her just to keep her hard-earned money rolling into their coffers,” NRTWLDF President Mark Mix said in a statement announcing the suit.
“The High Court made perfectly clear in Janus that affirmative consent from employees is required for any dues deductions to occur. Yet PPA union bosses are clearly violating that standard here,” Mix said.
A week before the DePierro filing, NRTWLDF attorneys issued a special notice to more than 28,000 Ohio state employees advising them of their right not to pay agency fees. The notice was part of a settlement of the foundation’s suit against the state government and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, AFSCME Local 11 (OCSEA).
Other Janus suits currently working their way through the courts include NRTWLDF actions against the Chicago Teachers Union, the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA), the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), California Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union and the University of California, and the Township of Ocean Education Association (TOEA), New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) unions. The latter suit has reached a federal appeals court.
Read the entire article online at The Epoch Times here.
Delaware Mountaire Employee Submits Brief Urging Labor Board to Scrap Controversial Policy Blocking Votes to Oust Unions
Union lawyers aim to use non-statutory “contract bar” to have workers’ ballots to remove union destroyed and never counted
Washington, DC (August 21, 2020) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have just filed a brief urging the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C., to overturn its non-statutory “contract bar” policy. That policy allows union bosses to block workers from exercising their right to vote them out of a workplace for up to three years.
The “contract bar” is not provided for in the text of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which the NLRB administers, but is the result of past Board decisions designed to entrench union bosses. The policy overrides workers’ right, explicitly guaranteed by the NLRA, to hold secret ballot elections to “decertify” ―i.e., remove―a union that lacks majority support.
The brief is the latest development in a case filed by Delaware-based Mountaire Farms poultry processing employee Oscar Cruz Sosa in February 2020. Cruz Sosa filed a petition, signed by hundreds of his coworkers, seeking a vote to decertify the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 union.
Cruz Sosa also filed federal unfair labor practice charges in April against the UFCW union for illegally seizing dues from his and other employees’ paychecks, and for making an uninvited visit to his house and threatening him after he submitted the petition for a vote to remove the union. He is receiving free legal aid from the Foundation in filing these charges and in defending his and his coworkers’ right to oust the union.
UFCW officials argued after the petition’s filing that the “contract bar” should block Cruz Sosa and his coworkers from even having an election, but the NLRB Regional Director in Baltimore held that the vote should proceed because the union’s contract with Mountaire Farms contains an invalid forced dues clause.
Not content to accept that result and move forward to an election, UFCW union lawyers asked the full NLRB in Washington to review the Regional Director’s decision.
Responding for Cruz Sosa, Foundation staff attorneys urged that the decision allowing a vote should stand, but because the union appealed the decision Foundation attorneys countered that, if the NLRB did decide to review the case, it should reconsider the non-statutory “contract bar” policy.
On June 23, the NLRB in Washington granted the union’s request for a review of the case and also accepted the Foundation attorneys’ argument that the entire “contract bar” doctrine should be reconsidered. The NLRB invited the parties and amici to file briefs. The case should be fully briefed and ready for a decision by early October.
Foundation staff attorneys argue in their latest brief that the “contract bar,” in addition to having no basis in the text of the NLRA, arbitrarily curtails workers’ right under the statute to vote to remove a union that a majority of them oppose. The brief states: “Over many decades the contract bar has trapped countless employees in an unwanted exclusive bargaining relationship and made the union the employees’ master and the employees ‘prisoners of the Union.’ . . . Far from ensuring the NLRA’s neutrality concerning employees’ decision to select a union or be unrepresented, the contract bar entrenches incumbent unions by keeping them in power almost indefinitely.”
The brief also points out that the idea of a “contract bar” was rejected by the NLRB in 1936, shortly after the NLRA was passed, and that the contract bar wrongly shields union officials from accountability when they cannot deliver on the often farfetched assurances union organizers make to gain the support of workers.
The brief emphasizes that the only “bar” explicitly sanctioned by the NLRA is the “election bar,” which immunizes unions from decertification attempts for one year after employees have voted in an NLRB election. In light of that, the brief maintains that, if the NLRB declines to fully eliminate the non-statutory “contract bar,” that bar should be limited to a similar one-year period, and should provide a window for workers to vote quickly after a contract has been executed.
The Board has impounded the ballots from Mountaire workers’ decertification vote, which took place in June and July, pending its decision in the case. If Cruz Sosa and his Foundation staff attorneys prevail before the Board, the workers’ votes will be counted. If the UFCW is successful, the workers’ votes will be destroyed and never tallied.
“Federal labor law, above all else, is supposed to protect the right of workers to freely choose who will be their voice in the workplace. It’s hard to imagine a policy more contrary to that than the ‘contract bar,’” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Blocking workers’ right to vote out an unwanted union for up to three years just because union officials and an employer came to a contract between themselves serves no purpose other than to insulate self-interested union bosses from being held accountable by the rank-and-file workers that the union officials claim to represent. You don’t have to look any further than the growing scandal at the United Auto Workers union to see how this works.”
“We hope that the NLRB will eliminate this coercive policy and free not only Cruz Sosa and his coworkers at Mountaire from the government-enforced grip of unwanted union bosses, but countless other employees across the country who face similar situations,” Mix added.