Following an investigation by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials, a formal settlement has now forced International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 9 union officials to inform workers about their right to resign their union memberships, and that it will not ignore such resignations or mete out internal union discipline on workers who resign.

The settlement comes after Colorado Springs metal worker Russell Chacon filed an unfair labor practice charge at Region 27 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Denver in May after he received a message from Sheet Metal union bosses imposing $21,252 in union disciplinary fines on him. The fines were imposed despite the fact that Chacon had resigned his union membership and left a job at a contractor under Local 9’s power several months earlier to work at a Pueblo facility free from union control. Chacon received free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Although Sheet Metal union bosses informally rescinded their fine demands soon after Chacon filed his charge, NLRB Region 27 continued to investigate Chacon’s charge that union officials had instigated the discipline specifically in retaliation for his leaving the union. Decades-old federal law prohibits union officials from forcing internal union discipline on workers who have resigned union membership, and from restricting the exercise of that basic right to refrain.

The NLRB found merit in Chacon’s claims of retaliation earlier this month, forcing union officials to settle in order to avoid NLRB prosecution.

Chacon used to work for Colorado Sheet Metal, a Colorado Springs-based contractor whose employees are under the monopoly bargaining power of the Sheet Metal Local 9 union. According to his unfair labor practice charge, he sent a letter to Local 9 union officials resigning his union membership in November 2020 so he could work for Rocky Mechanical, a Pueblo-based firm outside Local 9’s control. The union fine demand, which came several months after his change in jobs, demanded Chacon fork over $21,252 to cover the alleged union “loss of funds” for a period through May 31, which included days that Chacon had not even worked yet.

The settlement requires Sheet Metal union officials to post a notice at the union office stating that they “will not fail to inform or misinform you about the proper process for resigning your membership,” “will not fail to give effect to resignations of membership from the Union,” and “will not restrain and coerce you by instituting and prosecuting disciplinary proceedings and levying fines after failing to give effect to resignations.” The notice also confirms that Chacon is no longer subject to the fine demands.

“As the conclusion of this case shows, Sheet Metal union officials were caught red-handed violating workers’ most basic right to refrain from associating with an organization they don’t want to be part of,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although we are pleased that Mr. Chacon is no longer saddled with an outrageous fine demand, unfortunately other Colorado workers can still be forced to pay dues to these thuggish union bosses because The Centennial State lacks a Right to Work law.”

Mix continued, “Right to Work protections ensure that all union financial support is strictly voluntary, and no worker can be fired just for refusal to pay dues to unwanted union bosses.”

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