Detroit Local 58 scored an important victory over anti-union right-to-work forces on Oct. 26.
David I. Goldman, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board, slapped down a challenge to the local brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and supported by ultra-conservative groups like the Mackinaw Center and the Washington Free Beacon.
At issue was whether or not Local 58’s procedure for members to resign from the union under Michigan’s right-to-work law was too onerous, and therefore illegal.
“Our rule was just a reasonable procedure,” said Local 58 Business Manager Michael Richard, “and an independent judge agreed with us.”
The 5,000-member local’s rule, which requires a member who wishes to opt out of dues to submit a written request and present the letter in person with identification, was described in the complaint as an attempt to “threaten, restrain, coerce and discriminate” against would-be free-riders, and characterized in other anti-union rhetoric as a tactic “designed to dissuade or intimidate” workers from opting out.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Richard said. “‘A’ members are entitled to certain benefits of membership, including a pension, and our policy is only there to prevent fraud.”
In fact, the policy even makes exceptions – cited by Judge Goldman – for persons who consider appearing in person “an undue hardship” to make alternate arrangements to verify their identity.
In his ruling, Goldman responds to the allegation that Local 58’s process “restricts” the ability of a member to resign, ruling unequivocally, “It does not, in any way that the term has ever been understood heretofore.”
Further, Goldman chastised attorneys for the right-to-work-backed plaintiff for omitting key language from their cited case law, calling out their argument as an “unsupportable proposition,” that “suggests the opposite of what the … counsel relies upon them for.”
It is unclear whether the losing side will appeal the decision to the full NLRB.
Enjoying his local’s victory, Richard said, “We are pleased that our union prevailed in pushing back the anti-union National Right to Work Foundation,” adding, “It’s good to have a win.”