Poultry plant employee sues union over fees

SELBYVILLE — A Mountaire Farms employee has filed federal charges against the local union at his plant, claiming the illegal seizure of fees, according to an announcement on Tuesday.

Oscar Cruz Sosa also alleged that he was threatened at his home after submitting a petition signed by co-workers to remove the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27.

In a news release, the nonprofit National Right to Work Foundation said it assisted in the filing with the National Labor Relations Board.

The NRWF referenced an alleged incident on March 8 when a union agent supposedly arrived at Mr. Sosa’s house uninvited “warned him ‘that the decertification process being undertaken was ‘illegal’ ” and that a court battle was coming.

“The threats and dues deductions in this case show how union bosses regularly trample workers’ rights in order to keep forced dues rolling into their coffers,” said NRWF President Mark Mix.

“We hope that NLRB Region 5 will immediately prosecute the union for these violations, and ultimately order that the union refund all union dues and fees collected from Mountaire Farms workers under the unlawful forced dues clause.”

An attempt to reach the UFCW for comment on Wednesday was not successful.

While “Mountaire has always and will continue to value all employees right to a respectful workplace, free from harassment,” spokeswoman Catherine Bassett said the company deferred to the NLRB to adjudicate the dues-related allegation.

According to Ms. Bassett, “Mountaire values an employee’s right to choose and looks forward to allowing its employees the freedom to choose whether they wish to be represented by UFCW local 27 or not. … It’s important that employees ask questions and learn the truth about all of their rights.”

On Wednesday, NRWF spokesman Jacob Comello said an NRLB-supervised secret ballot vote by employees on June 17 would determine whether or not to remove the union.

The NRLB earlier “rejected union arguments that the decertification election requested by Sosa and his coworkers should be blocked,” according to the news release.

The NRWF claimed that through a “NLRB-created policy known as the ‘contract bar,’ employees’ statutory right to hold a decertification vote to remove a union can be blocked for up to three years when a union contract is in place.

“However, under longstanding precedent, the ‘contract bar’ to decertification does not apply when the union contract in place contains an unlawful forced dues clause.”

Earlier this month, according to the NRWF, the NRLB determined that a so-called “union security” clause in the union’s contract with Mountaire Farms “unlawfully mandates that workers’ immediately pay union dues upon hiring or be fired.”

Also, the NRWF maintained that “Although Delaware lacks Right to Work protections for its workers, and thus union bosses can have private sector workers fired for not paying certain union fees used for bargaining purposes, the National Labor Relations Act explicitly provides that newly hired workers have 30 days before they can be required to pay those dues.

“Under longstanding precedent, a forced fee clause that does not give employees that 30-day ‘grace period’ is invalid and unenforceable.”