IBEW union officials threatened to fire worker for failure to pay union fees, even though union contract is invalid

Murphysboro, IL – Penn Aluminum International employee Mary Beck has filed new federal charges against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 702 union, stating that union officials threatened to get her fired for failure to pay union fees demanded under a defective contract.

Beck, who is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, has amended charges she hit the union with in June. The original charges stated IBEW union officials unlawfully seized money from her wages without her consent and without proving that a contract mandating such deductions is in effect.

Because Illinois lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, union officials can legally force workers in facilities under union control to pay some union fees just to stay employed. However, union bosses lose this legal privilege if there is no valid monopoly bargaining contract in effect. Under longstanding law, union officials must also gain consent from a worker before they can demand that an employer deduct compulsory fees from a worker’s paycheck.

Beck’s original unfair labor practice charge noted that she sent a letter to IBEW union chiefs and her employer in January 2022 exercising her right to resign her union membership and to stop any union dues deductions from her paychecks that are not required to maintain employment. Her letter also demanded a copy of any contract that gives IBEW officials the power to require dues payments as a condition of employment.

When she received no response, she redelivered this letter by hand in March 2022. In this letter Beck also requested that, if IBEW union officials could produce a valid contract, her dues payments be reduced as per the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. In CWA v. Beck the Court ruled that union officials in non-Right to Work states cannot force nonmembers to pay fees for political and other union activities outside the union’s bargaining functions. Union dues were still deducted from her paycheck after this letter.

IBEW Union Bosses Blew Off Worker Requests for Months, Then Threatened Her Termination

Beck’s amended charge states that IBEW union officials didn’t acknowledge her requests until July, when they finally sent a copy of the union contract and ended dues deductions, but still demanded she pay an unspecified amount of union fees to keep her job. The amended charge points out that the contract produced does not contain language that lets IBEW bosses take advantage of their legal privilege to force all employees to pay dues as a condition of employment.

According to the amended charge, the contract also does not “contain the grace period required by Section 8(a)(3)” of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). That section of the NLRA requires new employees to be given at least 30 days before being compelled to pay union fees in a workplace under a forced-fees union contract.

Union officials in an August 9 letter threatened to terminate Beck by August 15 if she didn’t pay union fees. “The letter failed to provide Charging Party with the exact amount the Union claims she owes or a reasonable opportunity for her to pay those alleged fees,” Beck’s amended charge says. Both are required by longstanding precedents.

Beck’s new charge argues that the union’s continued deduction of dues after her March letter and demands for union fees without a valid contract in place violate her rights under the NLRA.

“IBEW bosses threatening to upend Ms. Beck’s career for failure to pay fees to which the union’s sloppily-written contract doesn’t even entitle them is terrible malfeasance to be sure, but a correctly written contract certainly wouldn’t solve the problem,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The real injustice is that millions of workers across the country, Ms. Beck included, can be forced to pay anything to a union hierarchy just to keep their jobs.”

“Ultimately, every worker in America deserves the protection of a Right to Work law, not only so workers are shielded from having to choose between their jobs and funding a union they oppose, but also because when dues are fully voluntary union officials must prove their worth to workers before earning their financial support,” Mix added.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.

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