“I absolutely love my job, I love the people I work with, I love the customers. Everything about it is magnificent, except one thing.” That one thing, according to John Kabler, is union fees.
When John accepted a job as a liquor store clerk he was told, “There are two options: you sign the contract and join the union, or you do not have a job.” John, not knowing the union was lying to him, signed the papers. (Click here to hear his story.)
If it sounds manipulative and wrong, it is. Unions should help workers, not alienate and deceive them.
For the next two years, John was paying union fees under false pretenses. Union fees aren’t cheap, he quickly realized, and in terms of lost pay, he says, “I’m working two weeks a year for the union.” That’s a lot of money that could be used for bills, a retirement fund, or home and car repairs.
When John learned that government employees cannot be forced to join a union, he tried to resign. But the union rejected his request, highlighting a glaring issue: members can only resign during a 15-day window prior to the expiration of their contracts. John missed the window, not knowing it existed, and will be stuck until a new contract is signed. This is despite resigning from his union in July 2018.And the union that lied to him and wouldn’t let him leave?
UFCW Local 1776. And it’s not the first time they’ve engaged in nefarious schemes. In 2015, the union failed to register their president as a lobbyist and was fined $15,000 for defying lobbying disclosure requirements over a misleading political ad.
Indeed, this letter was sent to state store workers, blatantly telling workers union membership is a “condition of employment,” despite the law stating otherwise.
Lied to and trapped, John sought help from The Fairness Center—a public interest law firm that helps those hurt by public sector union officials. John is seeking monetary damages for all the troubles the union has put him through. His case can also stand as a precedent for any other union that tries to pull the same tactic on future workers.
Unfortunately, John is not alone. Since Janus—a case deciding that non-union workers did not have to pay union fees—unions have doubled-down on curtailing workers’ rights all over the state. Ordinary people have had their pay reduced, First Amendment rights suppressed, and the truth withheld.
It shouldn’t be this cumbersome to earn a living, yet unions are making it difficult. However, legislators have noticed and responded.
HB 785, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, and Sen. Scott Martin’s SB 371 would notify workers that they don’t need to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Another bill, Rep. Greg Rothman’s HB 506, would provide workers a fair opportunity to resign from their union.
No one deserves to be taken advantage of and deceived. Passing workers’ rights legislation will restore and respect these employees' choices. Hopefully John will be one of the last one to pay unwelcomed union fees.