With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, seven Chicago employees who refused to abandon their jobs during a strike forced a settlement with a local union after union officials levied exorbitant and illegal retaliatory fines against them.
The employees, truck drivers for industrial laundry company Lechner and Sons, filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Teamsters Local Union 731, an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, after Local 731 union officials hit the employees with fines ranging from $13,946 to $40,000 each for not abandoning their jobs during a strike. None of the employees were truly voluntary members of the union during the strike.
In July 2006, Local 731 union bosses ordered the employees to abandon their jobs during a so-called “sympathy strike” involving a different bargaining unit of workers at the plant where the strike occurred. After the strike ended in June 2007, union brass claimed the power to use fines to discipline non-striking employees.
Union officials never informed any of the employees of their right to refrain from formal union membership and pay a reduced amount of forced dues. Instead, union officials mislead the employees into believing that formal, full-dues-paying union membership was a condition of employment.
The union hierarchy also claimed the power to discipline two employees for working during the strike even though they were not union members during the strike. The union bosses illegally threatened one employee that if he did not pay the fine, he would never again work in a “union shop.”
With help from Foundation attorneys, the employees forced Local 731 union officials to drop the fines against the seven workers and refund part of their forced dues.
“It is unconscionable for union bosses to mislead employees into union membership and then attempt to drive them into the poorhouse in vicious retaliation for working,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Confiscatory fines and kangaroo courts are just some of the disturbing, yet increasingly-used tactics of union boss intimidation that are all too common in states like Illinois where there is no Right to Work law on the books.”
The employees at the workplace have since decertified the Teamster union as their monopoly bargaining agent.