PA teachers opposed to public sector forced unionism ask court to rule against them to move case toward U.S. Supreme Court
Pittsburgh, PA (May 19, 2017) – Four Pennsylvania teachers have filed a brief in federal court seeking judgment in their case against the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) union. The teachers are represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Fairness Center.
These teachers, led by lead plaintiff Greg Hartnett, are challenging the constitutionality of mandatory union dues and fees for public-sector employees. The teachers are employed by three different school districts and have filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Their case joins six other National Right to Work Foundation-litigated cases in other states that seek to win a ruling on the issue from the United States Supreme Court.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public-sector workers can be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees. However, in two recent National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions, Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), the High Court suggested it was ready to revisit its 1977 precedent in Abood, expressing skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues privileges.
In the majority opinion in Knox v. SEIU, which struck down a Service Employee International Union (SEIU) forced dues scheme, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “This form of compelled speech and association imposes a ‘significant impingement on First Amendment rights.’ The justification for permitting a union to collect fees from nonmembers – to prevent them from free-riding on the union’s efforts – is an anomaly.”
The brief filed in Hartnett notes that, because lower courts are bound by past Supreme Court precedents, only the Supreme Court could issue the ruling the teachers seek. The brief therefore asks the district court to grant judgement against the teachers to clear the way for this case to move to the U.S. Court of Appeals and eventually to the Supreme Court.
“Americans overwhelmingly agree that forced dues are wrong. It is an especially egregious violation of the First Amendment for public servants to be required to subsidize union officials’ speech as a condition of working for their own government,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “In Knox the Supreme Court majority acknowledged that compulsory union dues create a serious impingement on the First Amendment rights of public employees. That case only challenged an increase in forced fees imposed without notice. In this case, the teachers are simply asking that the High Court apply the same strict scrutiny to all public sector forced union fees.”
Twenty-nine states have laws that protect public school teachers from forced unionism. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.
Appeals Court to Hear Illinois Homecare Providers’ Case Seeking More Than $32 Million in Illegally Seized Union Dues
Despite Supreme Court ruling that the SEIU’s dues scheme was illegal, union officials refuse to refund workers’ money
Chicago, IL (May 17, 2017) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of Illinois homecare personal assistants in Riffey v. SEIU. The case attempts to win back more than thirty-two million dollars in forced dues illegally seized by a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) scheme that the U.S. Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in the 2014 Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn decision.
The case stems from an executive order issued by former Governor Rob Blagojevich that classified as “public employees” more than 20,000 individuals who provide in-home care to disabled persons receiving state subsidies” which meant that the providers could be unionized. As a result, these in-home care givers, many of them parents caring for their own children, were targets of coercive “card-check” union organizing drives.
Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the scheme and eventually in petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case. The High Court took the case and, on June 30, 2014, it Court ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme imposed by Governor Blagojevich is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.
“If we accepted Illinois’ argument” that homecare workers can be forced to pay union dues, wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the majority opinion, “we would approve an unprecedented violation of the bedrock principle that, 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.”
After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Harris – now designated Riffey v. SEIU – the case was remanded to the District Court to settle the remaining issues, including whether SIEU would be required to return more than $32 million in dues confiscated from nonmembers through its unconstitutional scheme.
In June 2016, the District Court ruled that SEIU did not have to repay these funds. That decision was immediately appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger will appear today.
“If SEIU union bosses are allowed to keep the millions in unconstitutionally seized dues it would be outrageous and a perversion of justice,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These homecare providers should not have to jump through all these hoops just to get the money that is rightfully theirs after the Supreme Court ruled the dues seizures unconstitutional.”
Workers rejected USW union officials, but union continued collecting forced dues for an additional year by stalling outcome with appeals
Pittsburgh, PA (May 16, 2017) – After a year-long battle, the workers at a Unifirst Corp. facility in Pittsburgh have finally ejected an unwanted union from their workplace. The workers were assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Homer Suman is a worker at a Unifirst Corp. laundry in north Pittsburgh, PA. Suman and the other workers at the laundry were forced into a monopoly bargaining contract with the United Steelworkers Union (USW). On April 28, 2016, the workers participated in a decertification election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), with the workers rejecting the USW’s representation.
However, the USW union officials refused to accept the decertification election’s clear outcome, and filed a number of objections with the NLRB, seeking to preserve their forced unionism powers over the workers. Because Pennsylvania is not a Right to Work state, workers can legally be forced to pay union dues or fees to union officials as a condition of employment.
Assisted by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Suman has fought the USW official’s objections for a full year. During this time, all Unifirst Corp. workers under the USW monopoly bargaining contract have been forced to continue paying dues and fees to the USW despite the results of the 2016 decertification election.
Suman and other Unifirst employees filed and won a prior decertification election in 2014, only to have that victory snatched away by a divided NLRB. USW officials filed objections to that election, and the NLRB accepted the union boss arguments and continued to force these workers to pay dues to the USW.
In early May 2017, over a year after the landslide vote, the NLRB overruled the objections filed by USW officials and certified the results of the decertification election. This ruling finally vindicates Suman’s fight, and removes the USW from his workplace, freeing him and his coworkers from the forced dues shackles of the USW.
“It is outrageous that the NLRB allowed USW officials to play games with the system and drag these proceedings out for a year,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “These workers had already spent years fighting to be free of compulsory unionism, and the NLRB delays forced these workers to remain in an unwanted contract and pay dues and fees for a year. This case is another reason why Pennsylvania needs a Right to Work to protect the right of workers to choose whether or not to support a union.”
Union officials are violating federal law by failing to provide worker with paperwork to end the collection of union dues from his paycheck
El Paso, TX (May 9, 2017) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for Region 28 has filed a complaint against Teamsters Local 745 for violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The complaint states that Teamsters union officials have continuously refused to provide a worker with basic information necessary to exercise his workplace rights.
The worker, Sal Olivas, is a driver for the United Parcel Service UPS (NYSE: UPS) in El Paso, Texas. On January 9, 2017, with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Olivas resigned his formal union membership and sent a letter to Teamsters Local 745 union officials seeking a copy of his dues checkoff authorization form, the steps to needed to revoke his dues checkoff authorization, and the specific “window period” in which he has to do so. Union officials did not respond to his initial letter or an additional letter he sent a week later.
Even though union officials have not provided Olivas with his requested checkoff and information about the “window period,” because of the legal assistance provided by Foundation staff attorneys union officials have ceased collecting forced dues from him. However, by failing to provide Olivas with the requested information, union officials have violated the NLRA.
The NLRB Regional Director for Region 28 has issued a complaint against the union for continuously stonewalling Olivas’ requests for his dues checkoff authorization and information about the “window period.” As a result, a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge is scheduled for August 1 in El Paso.
“It is outrageous that Teamsters union bosses are stonewalling this worker’s simple request,” National Right to Work President Mark Mix commented. “This case is another reminder that even in a Right to Work state like Texas, where union dues and fees are supposed to be strictly voluntary, enforcement of the statutory employee protections are vital. Otherwise the law is just words on paper.”
Michigan State Court of Appeals Upholds Ruling Striking Down MEA Union “Window Period” Restrictions on Resignations
Decision upholds the right of Michigan Employees to leave a union at any time
Detroit, MI (May 3, 2017) –The Michigan State Court of Appeals has upheld the Michigan Employee Relations Commission’s (MERC) ruling that affirmed the right of Michigan employees to leave a union at any time. The case was brought by public school employees with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. The Appeals Court decision comes in response to union lawyers’ challenge of MERC’s ruling that so-called “Window Periods” limiting to only a few weeks the time when an employee can resign from a union are an illegal restriction of employees’ rights and violate Michigan’s Right to Work law.
Alphia Snyder, a Battle Creek Public Schools employee, resigned her union membership in April 2013, after the pre-existing monopoly bargaining agreement expired and she became fully covered by Michigan’s public sector Right to Work law. However, Michigan Education Association (MEA) union officials insisted that Snyder could only leave the union during an annual 30 day window period in August. Throughout the fall of 2013, Snyder received several demands from MEA bosses for forced dues, and she filed unfair labor practice charges against the MEA in the spring of 2014.
Similarly, Grand Blanc Community Schools employee Mary Carr resigned her union membership in November of 2013, just as she became fully covered by Michigan’s Right to Work Law. However, MEA officials responded to Carr’s resignation letter by informing her it would not be effective until the following August “window” period. Union officials then sent multiple demands for forced dues, and eventually threatened Carr that if she did not pay the forced dues, they would dispatch debt collectors. Carr also filed unfair labor practice charges against the MEA in the spring of 2014.
Additionally, Mark Norgan, a Standish-Sterling Community Schools employee, resigned his union membership in October 2013 and asked to only pay the part of dues he was forced to pay as a condition of employment as was his right under the Foundation-won Supreme Court case Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, because he was still under a monopoly bargaining contract until June 30, 2015. He was told by the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union that he could only leave the union during the annual 30 day window period, and both of his requests were denied. He also filed unfair labor practice charges against the MEA in the spring of 2014.
“This decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals is a big win for worker freedom in the Wolverine State,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Right to Work simply protects an employee’s right to decide for him or herself whether to join and financially support a union. As the court’s decision makes clear, that freedom of choice cannot be limited to one month a year.”
Chicago Utility Employee Files Unfair Labor Practice Charges Against Union Officials for Illegal Dues Seizures
Union officials failed to follow Supreme Court precedent providing for disclosure to workers of how forced dues are spent
Chicago, IL (May 3, 2017) – A Chicago worker, assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, has filed federal charges against the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and UWUA Local 18007. The charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 13 office in Chicago.
Gerald Howard is employed by Peoples Gas in Chicago, Illinois. UWUA Local 18007 has a monopoly bargaining contract in place with Peoples Gas that includes a requirement that workers can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to the union. Under federal law, no worker can be forced to formally join a union.
However, because Illinois is not a Right to Work state, workers can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court case Communication Workers v. Beck, nonmember workers cannot be legally compelled to pay union dues used for union politics and member-only activities. Workers can also demand a breakdown of the dues and fees paid to see which fees are used for which purpose.
In a letter sent to UWUA Local 18007 on February 18, Howard formally resigned his membership in the UWUA and objected to paying full dues, as is his right under the Beck precedent, but UWUA Local 18007 union officials failed to acknowledge his resignation. A month later on March 15, Howard sent another letter, this time to officials at the UWUA International headquarters in Washington, DC.
In a letter dated April 3, Washington-based UWUA officials finally acknowledged Howard’s resignation and objection to paying full dues as of his February 18 letter. The UWUA official’s letter also claimed that Howard would be required to pay 90% of full union dues, but did not provide explanation for how it arrived at that figure.
To date the UWUA has still failed to provide Howard with the legally required breakdown to justify that non-chargeable activities like union political and lobbying activities only make up ten percent of full dues. Absent those disclosures – as required by the Supreme Court in Beck – union officials cannot legally require Howard to pay any fees, but continue to do so anyway.
“UWUA union bosses are ignoring clear Supreme Court precedent and violating the rights of a worker they claim to ‘represent’ in their grab for forced union dues,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This type of disregard for the rights of rank-and-file workers highlights why Illinois desperately needs a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments strictly voluntary.”
Twenty-eight states have Right to Work protections for employees. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.
Union bosses ignore National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent as they demand worker pay up or be terminated
San Francisco, CA (April 26, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Eureka-area worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the International Union of Security Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) Local 247 for illegally demanding the security guard be terminated.
The worker, Jeffrey Nyquist, works as a security guard at Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. In January 2014, Nyquist sent the union a “Beck letter” stating his request to object to paying anything more than can be required by law and requested an independent financial audit of the union’s expenditures. Under the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck Supreme Court decision, workers have the right to opt out of paying full union dues that include union political lobbying and spending and have the right to see an independent financial audit of the union’s expenditures.
Union officials ignored Nyquist’s letter requesting more financial information and made no further efforts to contact him. Suddenly, more than three years later, on April 10, 2017, union officials sent Nyquist and his employer a letter demanding that he be terminated after 14 days unless he paid full union dues or fees for February through March 2017. The letter came despite the fact that union officials ignored their legal obligations to Nyquist regarding his Beck objections, which supersedes his obligation to pay the union dues or fees.
This isn’t the first time an SPFPA union has been caught violating workers’ rights when it comes to illegal union dues seizures. Just weeks ago, an SPFPA local was ordered to pay back approximately $20,000 in illegally seized dues from Washington D.C. – area workers despite a majority of workers having voted to end the forced unionism clause in their contract through an NLRB deauthorization election.
“It is outrageous that union bosses think they can pick and choose what parts of the law they want to follow on any given day,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “No worker should be threatened with termination for simply exercising his rights under the law. This case highlights why California workers need Right to Work protections that would ensure that union membership and dues payment is strictly voluntary.”
Illinois Grocery Workers Appeal Decision Blocking Vote to Remove Union Despite Unanimous Opposition to UFCW Union
NLRB asked to review Regional Director’s refusal to process decertification petition signed by workers who unanimously want union ousted
Winnetka, IL (April 14, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Chicago area worker has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to review a case in which she and her co-workers were denied the right to decertify a union claiming to represent them, despite the fact that every employee in the bargaining unit signed a petition to remove union representation.
The worker, Maureen Madden, is employed at Lakeside Foods. On March 2, 2017 she filed a petition to decertify the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1456 (UFCW). Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), if a decertification petition garners signatures from 30% or more of the employees in a bargaining unit, the NLRB will conduct a secret-ballot election to determine whether a majority of the employees wish to decertify the union. Every single employee in Madden’s bargaining unit signed the petition in support of removing the union.
Even though the decertification petition had one-hundred percent employee support, the NLRB regional director refused to honor it, citing the so-called “successor bar.” The “successor bar” stems from a 2011 NLRB decision that strips away the rights of employees to decertify a union if a new employer has taken over a bargaining unit.
Although a “successor bar” does not appear anywhere in the NLRA, and the Act’s stated purpose is to give employees a choice in their representative, including declining union representation, the NLRB Region used this doctrine as its justification to keep employees under union control for up to three additional years. Furthermore, because Madden and her co-workers work in Illinois, a state that does not provide Right to Work protections, the NLRB Regional Director’s decision allows UFCW to continue collecting forced fees from the employees as a condition of employment.
Madden’s petition points out that so-called “successor bars” are in conflict with decisions of the Sixth and Seventh Circuits and the Supreme Court, all of which hold that a union’s presumption of majority support can be overcome by proof that a majority of employees do not support the union, as has happened in this case.
“It is absolutely outrageous that this NLRB Regional Director dismissed a petition filed by a worker with every single one of her co-workers supporting it,” commented Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Far from being a neutral arbitrator as the NLRB claims to be, the NLRB Regional Director is actively allowing UFCW to continue to collect forced fees from workers although one-hundred percent object to the union and its so called ‘representation.’ This case highlights why Illinois workers need the protections that Right to Work provides.”
Union officials seek to continue their forced dues powers over Missouri workers through misleading ballot questions
Jefferson City, MO (April 11, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys three Missouri workers have filed a legal challenge against an AFL-CIO proposed petition that could repeal Missouri’s new Right to Work law and strip away Right to Work protections from them and hundreds of thousands of other Missouri workers. The plaintiffs, police officers Roger Stickler and Michael Briggs, and nurse Mary Hill, are opposed to mandatory union payments. Each has experienced forced unionism abuses in the past, and could again without the protection of a Missouri Right to Work law. Their lawsuit challenges the deceptive ballot language proposed to overturn the law.
Mike Louis, President of the Missouri AFL-CIO has submitted a repeal petition to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, seeking to delay the enforcement of the recently passed Right to Work bill and submit the issue to the general election ballot in 2018. This petition has been approved by MO Sec. State Jay Ashcroft, and would appear on the 2018 ballot if union organizers obtain a sufficient number of signatures. The workers’ lawsuit challenges the proposed summary statement language as deceptive to voters.
“Once again, rather than be upfront with the Missouri citizens about their intention of restoring their forced unionism powers to have a worker fired for refusing to tender union dues or fees, Missouri union officials are pushing deceptive ballot language,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Right to Work is popular with the people of the state, so Big Labor is hoping to mislead voters into undoing the protections Right to Work provides workers.”
This is not the first legal challenge National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed for workers who back Missouri’s Right to Work law that will make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary. Before the Right to Work bill was signed into law on February 6, AFL-CIO top boss Louis also submitted ten state constitutional amendments to kill the law and give forced unionism state constitutional protection.
Those ten amendments were sent to the desk of former Missouri Secretary of State Kander who approved them just hours before vacating his office. These same three workers sued to challenge the deceptive language that Kander approved. On March 24, the Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled that the ballot language was “unfair and insufficient,” and rewrote the language that will appear on the ballot in 2018 if union bosses collect enough signatures. The unions have appealed the ruling, and National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are continuing to defend against the appeal to protect the lower court ruling.
Worker was fired for seeking to end the forced unionism clause at his workplace and informing co-workers of their rights not to fund union political spending
Los Angeles, CA (April 10, 2017) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Flying Food Group for illegally firing a worker as retribution for distributing a deauthorization petition that would remove the forced unionism clause in its union contract and informing co-workers of their right not to pay for union activities unrelated to bargaining. The complaint was issued after NLRB investigators found merit to charges filed against the Flying Food Group by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for the worker, Douglas Cisneros.
Both activities are protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) even in states lacking Right to Work protections like California. The company has a nationwide agreement with the union that puts its employees under union control.
Cisneros, worked as a cook for the company. In July 2016, he began to circulate a deauthorization petition among his co-workers. If it garners enough signatures a deauthorization petition results in a vote to remove the forced unionism clause in the contract that requires workers to pay fees to United Here Local 11 as a condition of their employment.
Cisneros also circulated information to his coworkers about their rights under the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck United States Supreme Court case. Under Beck, workers have the right to opt out of paying full union dues that include union political lobbying and spending. After learning that Cisneros was exercising these legal rights, company officials terminated his employment on August 16, 2016, falsely claiming that he violated company rules against “engaging in rude or disorderly conduct.”
The NLRB complaint seeks an order requiring Flying Food Group to post notices in Spanish in addition to English and to reinstate Cisneros and reimburse him for back pay resulting from his illegal firing. A hearing is scheduled for June 20, 2017, before NLRB Region 31 in Los Angeles.
“It is outrageous Mr. Cisneros was fired simply for informing his co-workers of their rights and attempting to end union bosses’ power to require him and his coworkers to pay union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs,” commented Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case highlights why Californian workers need Right to Work protections that would ensure that union membership and dues payment is strictly voluntary.”