Danville teen store clerk files federal charges against local union

Claims UFCW Local 5 failed to release information on union fees

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


39 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Danville
on May 17, 2018 at 6:43 am

Good for you, Christopher Ratana-Kelley, proud to see our youth taking the initiative and fighting for what they believe.

36 people like this
Posted by DiabloTony
a resident of Diablo
on May 17, 2018 at 7:01 am

Bravo, Christopher! The Left complain about business who provides the jobs, but what about Unions who control the State and are an unchecked monopoly?

24 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Danville
on May 17, 2018 at 8:38 am

Chris is early in his work life and does not understand the benefits that the unions have provided for its members and non members. You can review this in the history of the labor movement beginning in the 1930's. If he still objects to the mandatory payment of the dues he has the right to leave at any time from his current employment agreement. When he took the job, it was fully explained to him that he was working under a collective bargaining agreement involving the UFCW and dues were mandatory.

25 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on May 17, 2018 at 10:15 am

Is there any reason the union cannot provide documentation on how this young mans dues are spent?

Or is it standard labor law to pay up and keep quite?

Unions who treat their paying members like garbage is no better than Employers abusing the rights of its workers.

15 people like this
Posted by MLC
a resident of Danville
on May 17, 2018 at 11:46 am

Really, what a waste of time and $ that could have a better purpose! If you don’t like the fact there is a union and you have to pay dues, look for a new job. I have to agree with Jim here in regards to the fact that I’m confident the union dues were explained at hiring. There is no way that Safeway and the union did not disclose before hire.

22 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on May 17, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Rick is a registered user.

Jim - Unions everywhere, but particularly in CA, have bought off the politicians to guaranty their monopoly - reciprocally, the unions contribute to the political campaigns of their supporters - note how much is donated by any/every union to Dem's vs. Repub's. If unions are so good for the worker, why not have them compete for the workers attention via 'right to work' vs. 'closed', or at least "semi" closed shops (in CA, you can get a job, you lucky devil, but unions are going to extract union dues even if you don't want them to represent you). Deplorable, confiscatory and contradictory to a free and open workplace, never mind society.

14 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2018 at 8:38 am

Unions had their place, and perhaps still do, in States with weak labor laws. And when Unions came to existence they were needed.

But today in California, for example, there are MORE than enough Labor Laws in place to protect the rights of employees. Actually, it's HEAVILY weighted towards the employees vs employers. So essentially Unions are obsolete. They've past their time. This is why they REQUIRE workers to join. If they didn't require dues, the VAST MAJORITY of workers would not join. Unions know this well and good.

7 people like this
Posted by Diane
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Nice! Good luck to you Christopher!

10 people like this
Posted by Malcolm Hex
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2018 at 2:50 am

Here is what what Jim said about Chris:

"When he took the job, it was fully explained to him that he was working under a collective bargaining agreement involving the UFCW and dues were mandatory."

Hey Jim, how do you know what was explained to Chris, and by whom? Quote your sources if you want to sound credible.

Second, union dues are not mandatory in any state. California is a "non-right to work state," which means Chris can opt out and become and "agency fee payer." Should he opt out, his former union, by law, would be required to send him a "Hudson Letter/Notice" once year to report A FULL ACCOUNTING OF WHERE HIS AGENCY FEE MONEY GOES.

Third, in "right to work states," the same rule applies insofar as opting out of a union; however, the only difference is that there are no agency fee requirements.

There is a case currently in the Supreme Court on this very issue - Janus v AFSCME. Should the Supreme Court decide in favor of Mr. Janus, there will no longer be mandatory AGENCY FEE REQUIREMENTS... PERIOD!!! The case has been heard, with a decision due in June 2018.

What this all means is that people who work in NON RIGHT TO WORK STATES - LIKE CALIFORNIA - will not only be able to opt out of their union, but will no longer be required to pay the agency shop fee (which is just a slight less percentage than basic normal union dues).

3 people like this
Posted by Truth in Advertising
a resident of Danville
on May 22, 2018 at 12:42 pm

The group that pursuing this legal action is The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation whose mission is to eliminate union power through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs. They are just using this kid to further their cause. They are pro business and anti worker. Take a look at any right to work state and see if their workforce is better off since they adopted right to work legislation. I would say most would unequivocally so that they were better off with union representation. I would be surprised if Christopher actually contacted The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation unless he has ties to that organization through a relative, more likely they solicited him.

4 people like this
Posted by Malcolm Hex
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2018 at 11:04 pm

Go Legal Defense Foundation!!! They are representing Mark Janus.

When the Supreme Court votes in favor of Mr. Janus, bu-bye mandatory agency fees!

Truth in Advertising (above) believes unions in non-right to work states should have the right to force non-union members to pay. This is a first amendment issue. But this tine, the court will get it right!

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