Engineers Union Gets Caught Red-Handed Trying to Confiscate Worker’s Money

On October 31, 2019,  Sacramento County employee filed an unfair labor practice charge with California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Stationary Engineers Local 39. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid to this employee who asserted that union bosses demanded that he cough up fees that clearly violated California labor law. He believes that this action infringes on his First Amendment rights.

Ethan Morris, the employee question, is employed at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and does not belong to the IUOE Stationary Engineers. He states in his charge that in July 2019 he received a notice from an IUOE financial secretary which sustained that “employees who do not join the Union must pay a…fee” to the union as a condition of employment, and that such mandatory fees are “legal and enforceable in California” through direct deductions non-union employees’ paychecks.

Morris’ charge contends that the union’s demands for dues constitute a violation of his First Amendment rights established under the the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, which the Foundation won in 2018. In this case, the majority of the Court acknowledged that union dues or fees cannot be imposed on public employees and may only be taken from government workers’ paychecks if they give “affirmative and knowing” waivers of their right to not subsidize a union, which the First Amendment protects.

According to Morris’ charge, IUOE Stationary Engineers bosses transgressed on his rights based on California’s Milias-Meyers-Brown Act (MMBA). The statue grants California workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and prohibits unions from “coerc[ing] or discriminat[ing] against” employees for asserting this right. Morris demands that union officials correct the matter by ending the illegal fee demands and posting a notice approved by PERC letting his coworkers know of their right to withdraw from union activities and recognizing that forced union dues violate First Amendment rights.

“Union bosses have been caught red-handed lying to workers about their Janus rights in this case because Ethan Morris learned his legal rights before signing them away in the face of their illegal demands. Yet, for every worker who rebuffs illegal union threats there are almost certainly thousands of workers who unknowingly sign away their rights,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix opined. “This case shows why states must proactively protect their workers’ First Amendment rights and ensure that every worker fully understands their Janus rights and must not deduct any union dues or fees unless a worker knowingly and voluntarily waives those rights.”

Right to Work has been one of the most successful right wing movements during the last few decades in America.

With 27 states having Right to Work on the books, organizations like the National Right to Work Committee have helped restore 1st Amendment rights in countless jurisdictions across the nation.

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