Jannie Potgieter, who up until recently was a freight employee at industrial park USF Holland in Jackson, Minnesota, has filed federal charges against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 120 union and his employer. Mr. Potgieter’s charges say that Teamsters bosses became hostile because he exercised his right not to be a union member, and that USF Holland officials illegally terminated him at Teamster officials’ behest. Mr. Potgieter is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Mr. Potgieter’s charges were filed on May 27, 2022, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act and adjudicates disputes among private sector employers, unions, and individual employees. The charges state that on May 18, 2022, a USF Holland manager discharged him because he exercised his rights under Communications Workers of America v. Beck (1988).

Because Minnesota lacks Right to Work protections for private sector employees, unions can force them to pay union fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, under Communications Workers v. Beck, a U.S. Supreme Court decision won by Foundation staff attorneys, formal union membership cannot be required, nor can payment of the part of dues used for non-bargaining expenditures like union political activities. In contrast, in the 27 states with Right to Work protections, union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.

Recently, Foundation attorneys aided Remmington Duk after his employer, Robert Basil Buick GMC, and International Association of Machinists (IAM) illegally terminated Mr. Duk for exercising his Beck rights. In that case both the employer and union quickly backed down, ultimately paying Duk more than $18,000 in settlements, in addition to being required to post notices informing other workers of their Beck rights.

“Foundation attorneys will continue to defend workers who are illegally threatened by union officials for exercising their rights, including not to become a formal union member and not to fund union political activities,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Employers that illegally fire workers at the behest of union officials will similarly be held accountable by Foundation attorneys.”

“Ultimately, this case shows why Minnesota workers need the protection of a Right to Work law to ensure all union payments strictly voluntary,” Mix added. “While Mr. Potgieter knew his rights enough not to simply give into Teamsters’ bosses illegal demands, there are almost certainly countless other workers who pay out of fear, not only for their livelihoods but also as a result of the Teamsters and other union bosses’ well-earned reputation for deploying thuggish tactics.”

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