A Michigan electrician is pressing federal charges against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58 union bosses for not informing him about his right to withdraw his union membership, and then proceeding to illegally fine him. Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid to the electrician.
Charles Lanning was employed as an electrician for several different companies since early 2008, before he decided to join his wife’s business in 2018. His charge alleges that although he was an IBEW member during that time period, IBEW agents had never told him about his right to resign his union membership. He was also not informed about his right before the passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law to pay only the portion of union dues directly related to monopoly bargaining which was established in the CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
As of March 2013, Michigan has had Right to Work protections for workers, which outlaw union bosses’ ability to require workers to hand over a part of their paychecks as a condition of employment.
Mr. Lanning’s charge explains that he left a job with a contractor in March 2018 so he could be employed at his wife’s business, Homestead Enterprises of Michigan. After making this change, he contacted the IBEW Local 58 office to find out if he would still be required to pay any kind of dues to the union despite the fact that he “would not be seeking work through the union hiring hall for the foreseeable future.” IBEW officials informed him that they would continue to seize quarterly dues from him, and again failed to tell him about his right to withdraw his union membership and exercise his right per Michigan’s Right to Work law to stop paying union dues. Due to this misinformation, Mr. Lanning continued to pay quarterly dues.
In September 2019, according to the charge Lanning filed, IBEW union bosses told Mr. Lanning in a text exchange that they needed to update him on the “contract changes making it possible for members to be contractors.” Mr. and Mrs. Lanning later met with IBEW bosses to discuss these alleged changes. In this meeting, union bosses pressured Lanning’s wife into signing a contract which would compel her to negotiate with the IBEW union simply for hiring her husband.
Mrs. Lanning refused to sign, and IBEW bosses then told Mr. Lanning that the IBEW had exercised union disciplinary charges against him and that “we may forgive them if you decided to become signatory” to the contract. At the proceeding in front of a union tribunal to determine if Mr. Lanning acted in violation of the union’s constitution and bylaws, Mr. Lanning was told that “guys lose their retirement for doing this kind of thing” and that IBEW officials would “salt” his wife’s business. “Salting” is a devious union practice in which union activists apply for jobs at non-unionized businesses with the intent of organizing the workers into monopoly union ranks or at least to causing these companies to incur stiff costs through legal action.
Further, IBEW Local 58’s internal trial board convicted Mr. Lanning of breaking union rules and demanded that he pay $10,000 in fines. According to Mr. Lanning’s charge, he was never a consensual member of the IBEW because he had never been informed that membership was optional. Due to his membership’s invalidity, the charge explains how all of the union-created disciplinary actions are flagrant infringements of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects workers’ “right to refrain from” union activity.
“Michigan union bosses are shamelessly attacking a man for choosing to work alongside his wife all to expand their coercive power over individual workers,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “This brazen behavior, combined with IBEW bosses’ long-running misinformation campaign against Mr. Lanning concerning his rights, are just one example of the continuing widespread corruption among Michigan union bosses that Foundation attorneys will continue to fight.”
Since Michigan’s Right to Work law went into effect on March 2013, Foundation staff attorneys have been involved in over 120 cases for Michigan workers subjected to union boss coercion.