A Teamsters attorney said employees were allowed to quit the union soon after the complaint was filed.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The National Labor Relations Board has sided with a group of St. Elizabeth Health Center workers who alleged that Teamsters Local 377 unfairly prevented them from resigning their union membership.
The general counsel of the NLRB last week issued a formal unfair labor practices complaint against the local. Unless the matter is resolved, the complaint states, Local 377 will face trial before an NLRB administrative law judge in April.
But Bob Moore, a Teamsters attorney, said much of the NLRB complaint is moot because the union allowed the workers to resign their memberships soon after their charges were filed.
Still must pay: The 10 are no longer union members, he said, but are still required to pay "fair share fees" instead of dues because the union is legally bound to represent them in contract talks or labor issues. "No money was collected inappropriately," Moore said.
The Teamsters are getting ready to mail notices to all St. Elizabeth employees regarding their fee and dues obligations to the union, which Moore said is required by the NLRB. He feels certain that all issues the employees raised in their charges will be resolved before the hearing date.
Ten St. Elizabeth workers filed charges against the union in June, with the assistance of the National Right to Work Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit organization offering free legal aid to employees who believe their human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory union activities.
Crux of dispute: Their dispute centered on whether workers can resign from a union without having to pay back dues. A foundation spokesman has said the 10 resigned because they did not want to participate in a 12-day strike that Teamsters 377 staged against the hospital in May.
The workers' complaint stated that Teamster officials refused to accept employees' written resignations from union membership and told employees that they must pay all "back dues" before the union would even consider their resignations.
Their charges also cover two workers who didn't join the union but were told they still owed union dues.
Foundation attorneys cited a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows workers to resign from formal union membership at any time and pay only for the union's proven collective bargaining costs, an amount that is generally only a fraction of full union dues.