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June 21, 2018 3:15 PM, EDT
NLRB Panel Rules Teamsters Ignored Resignation, Dues Queries
Laura Buckman/Bloomberg News

A Teamsters union local deliberately failed to respond to employees of Walt Disney World and UPS Inc. who inquired about resigning from the union or canceling payroll deductions of union dues, the National Labor Relations Board decided.

Labor organizations may lawfully set some conditions on members, such as requiring them to put resignation requests in writing, but NLRB’s 3-0 decision shows unions will be held responsible if their conduct completely blocks employees who want to exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

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Members Mark Gaston Pearce, Marvin E. Kaplan and William J. Emanuel wrote June 20 that International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 385 unlawfully restrained and coerced employees who tried to exercise their federal labor law rights.

An NLRB administrative law judge had found the union’s conduct “made it virtually impossible” for employees to revoke their dues authorizations in a timely manner.

Affirming that decision, the board ordered the union to refund union dues to some employees and to mail notices to Disney World and UPS employees assuring them the union will honor their rights to resign from the union and to cancel payroll deductions of union dues.

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The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented employees who charged Local 385 with unfair labor practices, and Vice President Patrick Semmens told Bloomberg on June 20 the ruling was a victory for workers over “scofflaw” union officials who “repeatedly and deliberately” violated employees’ labor law rights. Attorneys for Local 385 didn’t respond to a request for comment on the decision.

Union Charged With Ignoring Workers

Local 385 represents 4,000 to 5,000 employees of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc., which operates Walt Disney World, as well as 2,000 to 2,500 UPS Inc. employees at 45 to 50 work locations, according to the ALJ.

UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest North American for-hire carriers.

The union has a staff of more than a dozen employees at its Florida headquarters, but the ALJ found that Secretary-Treasurer Clay Jeffries was the only individual who handled members’ requests to terminate payroll checkoffs of their union dues. The union instructed its office staff that no one but Jeffries was authorized to “answer ANY questions to anyone” about members resigning from the union or stopping dues deductions.

Jeffries traveled extensively on union business, the ALJ said, and his practice was to not answer telephone or e-mail requests to revoke dues authorizations because they were supposed to be in writing.

Under the Disney and UPS contracts with the union, employees who signed checkoff authorizations could revoke them only during limited escape periods that were determined based on the date of the original authorization. The ALJ found that employees who tried to determine when they could revoke dues checkoffs often were ignored by the union, causing them to miss the window periods when they could have terminated their dues deductions.

Even if a member’s inquiry about terminating dues deduction was untimely, the board held, failing to answer the inquiry left employees uncertain about when they could end union dues payments and it violated their rights under the NLRA. The board ordered the union to advise employees it won’t fail or refuse to respond to such inquiries. The board also ordered the union to honor employees’ requests to resign from union membership.

NLRB attorneys represented the board’s general counsel.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys represented employees who filed NLRB charges. Thomas J. Pilacek Associates in Winter Springs, Fla., represented International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 385.