On April 28, 2020, a Delaware-based employee of Mountaire Farms filed federal charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 union for threats and other violations of federal law. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation stepped in to provide free legal aid.
Oscar Cruz Sosa, the employee in question, alleges that union bosses are infringing on his and his coworkers’ rights by confiscating union dues from them under an illegal forced dues provision in the union contract. In addition, the charges argue that a union official transgressed on his rights back in March when he visited Sosa at his home uninvited and threatened him for submitting a petition that his coworkers signed on to that sought a vote to kick out the union from their workplace.
The charges he filed were initiated at Region 5 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Baltimore, Maryland. Sosa’s charges followed the NLRB Region 5 Director’s rejection of union arguments that the decertification election sought by Sosa and his work compatriots should be blocked. Under a controversial policy the NLRB established known as “contract bar”, employees’ right to carry out a decertification vote to kickout a union can be blocked up to three years when a union contract is in effect. That said, under a well-established precedent, the “contract bar” to decertification does not pertain to established union contracts which feature illegal forced dues clauses.
In April, the Regional Director discovered that the UFCW contract with Mountaire Farms has a “union security” clause which illegally imposes immediate union dues payment once a worker is hired or fired. In other words, despite the contract being adopted less than three years ago, the workers can still move forward with their vote. UFCW union lawyers petitioned the NLRB to nullify the Regional Director’s decision. Sosa’s legal counsel is also defending the workers’ right to conduct a vote in the proceeding.
Taking into account the illegality of the forced dues clause, Sosa’s charge is requesting that the Regional Director direct union officials to return all dues and fees seized from him and his coworkers in accordance to that clause. While Delaware is not a Right to Work state, the National Labor Relations Act explicitly states that workers who were newly hired have 30 days before they are mandated to pay said dues. Based on well-established precedent, clauses with forced dues language that do not give employees that 30-day “grace period” are unenforceable and also null and avoid.
Sosa’s charge also recounts how a UFCW official came to his house uninvited on March 8, 2020 and admonished him “that the decertification process being undertaken was ‘illegal’” and that a court battle was on the horizon. Sosa’s charge sustains that this was “threatening” and “coercive behavior” and an obvious attempt to infringe on him and his coworkers’ right to exercise their NLRA Section 7 right to vote out an unwanted union.
“The threats and dues deductions in this case show how union bosses regularly trample workers’ rights in order to keep forced dues rolling into their coffers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope that NLRB Region 5 will immediately prosecute the union for these violations, and ultimately order that the union refund all union dues and fees collected from Mountaire Farms workers under the unlawful forced dues clause.”