Unfair labor practice case filed against abusive union in Portland

Unfair labor practice case filed against abusive union in Portland

Unfair labor practice case filed against abusive union in Portland

Upon reviewing the Freedom Foundation’s Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint defending a Portland City employee from his union’s abusive behavior, the state Employment Relations Board (ERB) has formally accepted the case and tentatively scheduled a hearing for March of 2018.

The complaint alleges that Laborers’ Local 483 violated state law by sending hate mail to the employee’s home and engaging in other activity designed to prevent him from holding a workplace deauthorization vote.

Voting for deauthorization would allow the employees to choose for themselves whether to pay dues, instead of being forced to pay “agency fees” to a union many of them don’t want to support. It’s the same end that will probably be accomplished when the U.S. Supreme Court decides Janus v. AFSCME in mid-2018, but the employees in Portland wanted it sooner.

The campaign was picking up steam with the Freedom Foundation’s help when union leaders allegedly (though unsuccessfully) asked Portland City officials to shut it down.

If true, that’s the first violation of state law. The Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) prohibits both unions and employers from interfering with an employee’s legally guaranteed right under the law, including the freedom to petition for deauthorization.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Soon after the campaign began, the employee leading the charge against forced union dues began receiving hate mail at his home – on what appear to be official Laborers’ Local 483 postcards designed specifically for that purpose.

The postcards list the employee’s home address on one side, while the other side boasts insults, obscenities, hateful comments and not-so-veiled threats to the man’s personal safety written by individual union members.

The Freedom Foundation promptly stepped in to defend the man and hold the Laborers’ Local 483 bosses accountable.

It’s still unclear whether deauthorization will ultimately be successful, but it’s telling that far more employees filled out the deauthorization petition than the anti-deauthorization postcards.

At the end of the day, the deauthorization effort – and the union bosses’ response to it – is an important reminder about what to expect when Janus v. AFSCME brings right-to-work protections to public employees nationwide. Union bosses like those at Laborers’ Local 483 have dug themselves such a deep hole with their members, the only thing they seem to know how to do is keep digging. Chances are they’ll try to pull their members down with them, too.

Luckily, the members seem to know it.

And they know who to call for help, too. The Freedom Foundation will be there to pull those members out of the abyss when the time inevitably comes to help them exercise their right to cease paying union dues.

Policy Analyst
Ben Straka serves as a policy analyst for the Freedom Foundation. His responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts, primarily centered around labor relations, education and government transparency within the states. In addition, he provides support for the Freedom Foundation’s Outreach program and works closely with the rest of the team to hold local governments and public-sector unions accountable to state residents. Ben joined the Freedom Foundation in May 2016. He is a native of Eugene, Ore., and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business.