After nearly 16 years of membership — including several years as a shop steward and almost $18,000 paid in union dues — Scott Pratka, an equipment operator for the city of Portland, thought he’d paid more than his “fair share” to the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 483.
After years of growing dissatisfaction with the union, however, Pratka decided to cancel his membership in June 2020. And ever since, Pratka alleges he’s been the victim of systemic discrimination.
Represented by the Freedom Foundation, Pratka on June 3 filed an unfair labor practice complaint against LIUNA 483 accusing the union of blatantly refusing to file grievances on behalf of workers who have decided they no longer want to pay union dues.
This kind of behavior violates LIUNA’s obligation as an exclusive representative, which requires it to fairly represent all workers in a collective bargaining unit, regardless of union membership status.For its part, LIUNA apparently believes loyalty is wasted on those who’ve spent entire careers bound to union representation
As Mr. Pratka put it, “I’ve paid them $18,000 and they never took care of me. And they never took care of my co-workers.”
From the start, LIUNA tried to make it as challenging as possible for Pratka to exercise his First Amendment right to leave the union. They even told him that if he wanted to leave, he would be required to come into the local office and complete certain paperwork — an assertion that is patently false.
When he objected on the grounds that he was at high-risk for contracting COVID-19 and preferred to remain in quarantine, the union refused to accommodate his needs.
At that point, Pratka contacted the Freedom Foundation for help. With a demand letter from its attorneys, LIUNA allowed Pratka to opt out.
Now that the union has shown its true colors by refusing to represent Pratka properly, the Freedom Foundation is glad to continue the fight on his behalf.
As long as LIUNA gets to reap the benefits associated with being the exclusive representative for Pratka’s bargaining unit, it will have to hold up its end of the bargain. This means that the union will have to fairly represent every member of a bargaining unit, regardless of union membership status.