A Monte Vista High School student is challenging a national food workers union for allegedly failing to provide him with documentation on how his dues are spent.
With legal support from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 16-year-old Christopher Ratana-Kelley, a part-time employee of the Danville Safeway at 3496 Camino Tassajara, has filed unfair labor practice charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5.
Ratana-Kelley not a member of the Local 5, but is still mandated to pay some union dues under state law. He reportedly objected to being “forced” to pay union dues as a non-member, and requested legal documentation on how his fees were calculated, as well as verification on how they were being spent.
A statement by the foundation alleges that UFCW officials failed to provide Ratana-Kelley with the aforementioned information “violating his legal rights.”
“Christopher is a teenager just entering the workforce,” said Mark Mix, president of the foundation. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a Goliath, and Christopher has chosen to hold the union giants accountable for their flagrant neglect of workers’ rights. This case underscores the need for California to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary.”
In California, employees who are non-union may still be required to pay union dues for certain union activities. Fees collected from non-union members are limited to the union's proven costs of collective bargaining activities.
Since California is not a “right to work state,” workers may be required to pay union dues even if they opt-out of being a union member, the rationale behind this being the employee in question will still benefit from negotiations the local union has made on all workers behalves.
Proposition 32, dubbed the “paycheck protection initiative,” was the closest California voters came in recent years to give the state “right to work laws.” In 2012 Prop 32, which would have prohibited unions from collecting money for state political activities through payroll deductions, was voted down by a margin of 13%.
“The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provides free legal aid to workers whose legal rights have violated by compulsory unionism abuses,” foundation vice president for public information Patrick Semmens said. “This case is one of around 200 cases currently being litigated by Foundation staff attorneys all on behalf of workers, including over 80 at the National Labor Relations Board.”
Representatives from UFCW Local 5 did not respond to requests for comment from DanvilleSanRamon.com.