On February 28, 2020, a Kroger employee based in Houston filed federal charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 455 union, arguing that union officials at his place of employment misled him about his right to withdraw his union membership and stop the union from deducting dues from his paycheck, and illegally ignored multiple attempts by him to assert those rights while continuing to seize dues from his paycheck. The charges were filed at Region 16 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid.
In June 2019, Alfredo Rodriguez Lopez, sent UFCW officials a letter declaring that he was exercising his rights as a free worker. Rodriguez’s charges contend that union bosses ignored the letter and ignored a similar one that he sent the next month. In the meantime, Kroger continued to take a portion of Rodriguez’s paycheck every month at the request of UFCW bosses.
Due to how Rodriguez is employed in Texas, a Right to Work state, he is not legally compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
Rodriguez then asked a union steward about the status of his request to terminate his dues deduction arrangement. According to the charge, the union steward asserted that he had to turn in his dues checkoff revocation letter on the “anniversary date” (the annual anniversary of the date he initially signed off on his dues checkoff authorization).
The charge highlights that UFCW bosses sent Rodriguez a copy of his dues checkoff authorization card at least a month following his third request to end union dues deductions. The card informed him that his dues checkoff was permament except for a 15-day “escape window” “prior to the end of any subsequent yearly period or bargaining agreement termination date.” It also had a provision which stated that the authorization would stay active “if my employment with any Employer is terminated and I am later re-employed by the same Employer or any other Employer under contract with Local 455.”
In January 2020, union bosses sent Rodriguez a letter which finally recognized the reception of his membership resignation and dues checkoff revocation. Nevertheless, they still denied his dues checkoff revocation on the basis that it was “untimely.”
Rodriguez’s charge contends that UFCW bosses’ prolonged obstruction of Rodriguez’s checkoff revocation and continued seizure of dues from his paycheck was a violation of his rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This section guarantees workers “the right to refrain from any or all” union activities. Additionally, Rodriguez is challenging UFCW bosses’ checkoff language, which neglected to mention that workers can cut off dues deductions during a contract hiatus or when they change employers.
Last year, Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal aid to two employees of Stop & Shop grocery stores based in Massachusetts during the April 2019 strike that UFCW officials called. The workers, who ended their union memberships after the strike was initiated so they could continue working, were the victims of illegal threats and intimidation from union officials. Nonetheless, they eventually won settlements which subsequently forced UFCW bosses to provide remedies for all of the violations they made.
Furthermore, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for a New Hyde Park Stop & Shop worker in September 2019 who was the victim of an illegal misinformation campaign by UFCW officials that originally informed him that union membership was mandatory.
“Once again UFCW union bosses have been caught waging months-long campaigns of misinformation and compulsion simply to maintain their coercive influence over rank-and-file workers and to keep illegal dues flowing into their bank accounts,” remarked National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Just as they did during the UFCW boss-ordered strike on Stop & Shop, and at many other times last year, Foundation staff attorneys will continue to fight to ensure that independent-minded workers can exercise their rights freely in the workplace.”