SCOTUS Might Strike Another Blow Against Labor Union Power Over Workers

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

A labor watchdog petitioned the Supreme Court Monday to review a U.S. District Court ruling that upsets decades of precedent and protects unions from lawsuits by members.

The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) appealed to the Supreme Court to review a District Court ruling that was affirmed by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, The Washington Free Beacon reported. The District Court ruled that a suit brought by two Michigan grocery store workers against their local union did not have standing because the lawsuit is based on a criminal statute that can only be pursued by the federal government, The Free Beacon reported. (RELATED: The Supreme Court Just Handed Down Its Big Decision On Mandatory Union Dues)

The Michigan grocery store workers filed a class action lawsuit against their union, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 876, in 2016 for refusing the workers’ request to end their membership. Michigan passed right-to-work laws in 2012 forbidding forced union dues, but the union claimed the workers did not file their request within the official “window period” or follow the certified mail requirement to opt out of the union.

The grocery workers claimed the union “violated the Labor Management Relations Act by imposing conditions on their ability to revoke their [union membership] authorizations and violated its duty of fair representation by enforcing those conditions,” according to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

The court decided the civil court was not the appropriate setting for the case based on the criminal statute Section 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act.

“Nothing in 302 says that private parties may enforce the law. The relevant language imposes federal criminal penalties on parties who willfully violate the statute: a criminal fine up to $15,000 or imprisonment up to five years,” the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals states. “That is a form of relief usually enforced by the federal government, not private parties.”

The 6th Circuit ruling breaks with years of precedent of labor cases being settled in civil court. The ruling also entrenches union practices that are used to trap workers into paying dues against their will, according to the NRTW.

“Unions have a long history of using these so-called ‘window period’ rules to block workers from exercising their legal rights and continue to seize forced dues against their will,” NRTW president Mark Mix said in a statement. “Even in Right to Work states, Big Labor officials will concoct new methods to keep extracting dues from workers — and now the Supreme Court will have a chance to weigh in and potentially put an end to these abusive union practices.”

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