The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney representing Portland, OR, cameraman Jeremy Brown just submitted a letter to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel (GC) Jennifer Abruzzo, demanding that she be recused from any involvement in his case. Brown’s case, which the NLRB decided in August, successfully challenged several illegal actions by National Association of Broadcast and Entertainment Technicians-Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA) union operatives, including its attorney.
The letter points out that Abruzzo, immediately prior to her appointment by President Biden as NLRB GC, “served as CWA’s ‘special counsel for strategic initiatives’” and “acted as that union’s ‘point person on National Labor Relations Board issues at’” the CWA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Because Brown’s case concerns CWA’s international policy forcing workers like Brown who abstain from formal union membership to write the national union if they want to exercise their right to not pay for the union’s political activities, Abruzzo’s involvement in the case would constitute a serious conflict of interest, the letter argues.
Under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, nonmember private sector workers who live in states like Oregon lacking Right to Work protections cannot be forced as a condition of employment to pay fees to a union in their workplace, except those that union officials claim subsidize core bargaining expenses. In states with Right to Work protections, all union financial support is strictly voluntary.
Brown’s requests to reduce his dues per Beck were ignored by the CWA union local, due to the CWA’s international policy of only honoring such requests if sent to the union’s DC headquarters. Brown in August won a decision from the NLRB fully vindicating his rights, with the Board ruling that CWA union officials had to stop failing to honor Brown’s Beck requests and return all money to Brown that they had already seized from his wages in violation of the Beck mandate. The NLRB also held that intimidating “evidence preservation” letters CWA’s attorney sent Brown during the litigation fell “outside the bounds of legitimate efforts to ensure evidence preservation,” by among other things demanding unrelated GPS and pedometer data.
“Although the Board has issued a clear and well-thought-out decision in this case…the Respondent Union has filed a Motion for Reconsideration,” the letter to Abruzzo reads. “However, the Board’s decision and the Motion for Reconsideration both involve the policies of your former and most recent employer, CWA International.”
“Because CWA International’s nationwide Beck objector policy is bound up with this case and the proper remedies to be issued, you should recuse yourself from any further involvement in this case,” the letter demands. The letter details another reason for Abruzzo to recuse herself: “The CWA International exercises nearly total control over its Districts and Locals…. Accordingly, your position of authority in the CWA International must be imputed to authority over local and district affiliates, justifying your recusal from CWA matters at all levels including this case.”
The letter to Abruzzo is not the only action by the Foundation to curb NLRB conflicts of interest created by recent Biden NLRB appointees’ having come from union payrolls. Just last week, Foundation President Mark Mix demanded that the NLRB Inspector General remove NLRB Members Dave Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox – who before joining the Board were lawyers for powerful Service Employees International Union affiliates – from involvement in an NLRB case in which SEIU is suing the Board and its Members individually.
“Jennifer Abruzzo, who Foundation FOIA requests show engineered President Biden’s precedent-shattering ouster of her pro-worker freedom predecessor Peter Robb, already has an ugly track record of seeking to undermine the rights of independent-minded workers opposed to union affiliation,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Given her role in setting and influencing CWA policies that are implemented at every level of that union, Abruzzo has a clear conflict of interest that disqualifies her from any participation in Mr. Brown’s case or any other cases brought by workers against CWA affiliates.”