From the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation:
Union Employee Files Federal Charge Against Another Local Union for Violating Her Rights
Case underscores needs for Right to Work protections
San Diego, CA (December 23, 2014) – An employee of a local union has filed a federal charge against another local union for threatening her with job termination after she tried to exercise her right to refrain from union membership and full dues payments.
With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, Karen Gomez of San Diego filed the unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Gomez, an employee of the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, mailed a letter to the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 537 notifying the union hierarchy that she was exercising her right to refrain from formal union membership.
Under federal case law, private-sector workers have the unconditional right to refrain from formal union membership. However, because California does not have Right to Work protections for workers, nonmember workers can be forced to pay a part of union dues and fees, but can refrain from paying for politics and many other union activities.
Under federal labor case law, union officials must also notify workers of their right to refrain from union membership and provide workers with an independently-audited financial breakdown of all forced-dues union expenditures. This procedural safeguard helps inform workers of how their forced union dues are being spent and makes it less difficult for workers to hold union officials accountable.
Even though an OPEIU Local 537 official acknowledged receipt of Gomez’s resignation letter, the union hierarchy did not recognize her membership resignation and continues to demand that she pay full union dues from her paychecks. When she sent a letter asking why union officials continued to demand full union dues, the union never responded.
Furthermore, OPEIU Local 537 officials continued to send dues invoices to Gomez, reflecting an arrearage of full union membership dues, and threatening her with job termination if she failed to pay. In response, Gomez sent a check for the full amount of the supposedly owed dues and marked it “paid under protest.” Despite her efforts, OPEIU Local 537 officials have since sought her termination of employment with UNITE HERE Local 30.
“Forced-dues hungry union bosses are so blinded by their forced dues powers, even union employees cannot exercise their statutory rights to refrain from full dues payments,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case underscores why California needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary.”