A Tyson Foods employee at a Wisconsin meat processing plant filed a complaint against United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 538 officials after the union allegedly threatened to retaliate against him for exercising his rights to refrain from full-dues-paying union membership.
Gregory Langron of Janesville, Wisc. filed the complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in August. Because Wisconsin does not have a right to work law, most workers who refrain from formal union membership must pay a portion of union dues as a condition of employment. But they cannot be forced to pay that portion of the dues used for the union's political, lobbying, and member-only activities.
Union officials are required to provide to an employee an independently audited breakdown of union expenditures if requested, even for nonunion members. This itemization of union expenses lists the percentage of union expenditures used for political activities. The nonunion employee can then request that percentage of his dues be deducted.
UFCW Local 538 union officials threatened to prosecute Langron with internal union proceedings for allegedly initiating a petition to remove the union hierarchy from the workplace.
According to a press release by the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal assistance to Langdon, union officials allegedly told Langron that they would not represent him.
"UFCW union officials are not only forcing workers to financially associate with their union, they are threatening independent-minded workers with kangaroo court sanctions for exercising their rights," said Patrick Semmens, National Right to Work Foundation legal information director.
"Wisconsin desperately need a right to work law to protect all employees from the very union bosses that claim to care about workers' rights but clearly don't."
Under the recently-enacted union reform bill backed by Governor Scott Walker most public employees now enjoy the Right to Work protections that make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary.
However, private sector employees in Wisconsin currently do not have such protections. This means that union bosses can conceivably request that an employee can be terminated for nonpayment of union dues.