Rhode Island Nurse Scores Big Win Against Union Goons

A Rhode Island nurse recently scored a big win against United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP).

Jeanette Geary, the nurse in this case, received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in a case that has dragged on for over a decade against UNAP union bosses. She came out victorious against the union and defeated union bosses’ efforts to have her fund union lobbying as a condition of maintaining her employment.

Geary, who was employed as a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge in 2009 against the UNAP union with free legal aid from National Right to Work Defense Foundation staff attorneys. She filed the charges following UNAP officials’ failure to provide her evidence of a legally required independent audit of its record of expenditures. In addition, she challenged how the union compelled her and other co-workers having to pay for union lobbying activities, which is a clear violation of the National Right to Work Foundation-won 1988 U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision.

In the Beck ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that private sector workers in non-Right to Work states could only be compelled to pay dues for union activities “directly germane” to the union’s bargaining activities. Such criteria doesn’t cover political activity such as lobbying. Similarly, in the Hudson case, the Court ruled that union officials must provide an audited financial report detailing how forced union dues are being spent.

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Back in 2012, the NLRB issued a negative decision, but the decision was thrown out in the Supreme Court’s case in NLRB v. Noel Canning where it declared that the Board did not have a valid quorum due to the three unconstitutional “recess appointments” President Barack Obama made at the time. Fast forward to 2020, Geary’s case was the only remaining case nullified by Noel Canning that the NLRB had yet to make a decision on.

In January 2019, Foundation staff attorneys submitted a mandamus petition at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit attempting to obtain a court order calling on the NLRB to quickly make a decision on Geary’s case. Subsequently, the Appeals Court instructed the NLRB to respond to that petition by March 4, 2019, which prompted the NLRB to lay out its decision on March 1, 2019, right before the deadline.

In the decision, the NLRB determined by a 3-1 vote that union officials’ decision to force non-union members to fund union lobbying activities is a violation of workers’ rights. In addition, it ruled that union officials must provide an independent audit on the union dues that they extract from non-members to make sure that the dues are not spent on union lobbying activities. The union bosses were not interested in stopping their forced unionization practice, so they decided to request that the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturn this ruling.

The First Circuit heard oral arguments in March 2020. Seasoned Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman put arguments forward on Geary’s behalf.

Oral arguments were held before the First Circuit in March 2020, with veteran Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman arguing for Geary. Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter was one of the judges on the First Circuit panel who heard the case.

“In a long-overdue victory, after over a decade of litigation Ms. Geary has successfully affirmed her right not to fund union boss lobbying, a protection guaranteed by the Foundation-won Beck Supreme Court decision,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “No worker should be forced to pay for union political activity, including lobbying. But, the fact that Ms. Geary had to endure this drawn out legal fight shows why a National Right to Work Law should be passed allowing every worker the individual right to decide for themselves whether to subsidize any union boss activities, political or not.”