Union charges fee to handle grievances; Mackinac Center Legal Foundation responds with lawsuit

First legal challenge in post-Michigan Right to Work era on grievance fees for non-dues paying members

Detroit, Mich. —Aug. 26, 2013— In one of the first challenges to a Union’s response to Michigan’s Right to Work legislation, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a complaint on Aug. 22 alleging that Teamsters’ Local 214 policy of requiring employees to pay a fee for handling grievances and arbitration, but exempting employees who are members in good standing, is unlawful because it violates the Public Employment Relations Act and the Union’s duty of fair representation obligations.

According to Cliff Hammond, an attorney with Detroit-based employment law firm Nemeth Burwell, P.C. and an expert on Michigan’s Right to Work law, this is the first legal challenge since Right to Work went into effect early this year to the Teamsters’ policy of charging non-dues paying members to handle a “grievance”.

“Under the new amendments made to Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act, public sector employees cannot be forced, intimidated, threatened, or compelled to become a member of a union or financially support a union, and a person cannot be required to pay dues, fees, or assessments as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment,” said Hammond. “The Complaint alleges that the threat of additional fees is meant to compel public employees to join or remain a union member.”

Hammond noted the Complaint also claims the Union’s policy violates the requirement that the Union represent all employees, not just union members.

“The Complaint alleges that compelling nonmembers to pay a fee to provide vital collective bargaining services, specifically grievance handling, is a violation of the Union’s duty to represent all employees,” said Hammond. “The Complaint also claims the policy discriminates against nonunion members by refusing to process a grievance without assessing the merits of the grievance, in violation of the union’s duty of fair representation.

Hammond said it will be interesting to see how the Court responds.

“The use of fees for representation of non-members is not new nationally, but Michigan’s specific law and this particular policy are what are being challenged,” said Hammond. “It will be interesting to see how the Court handles this case, if it all, as it may be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission for public employees and the National Labor Relations Board for private sector employees.”

About Nemeth Burwell, P.C.

Nemeth Burwell specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest women-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.

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Nemeth Burwelll Attorneys Discuss Timely Employment Topics

Nemeth Burwell Attorneys Discuss Timely Employment Issues

Detroit, Mich.—May 29, 2012— Attorneys with Nemeth Burwell, P.C., a Detroit-based law firm exclusively serving employers in the areas of labor and employment law, have been active recently in leading discussions on a variety of employment law topics.

  • Partner Linda Burwell presented Sex and Gender in the Workplace in Light of the EEOC’s 2013-2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan: Developments and Trends in EEO Law on May 10.
  • At the Nemeth Burwell Raising the Bar series on May 8, partner Terry Bonnette, presented 2013 Wage and Hour Boot Camp, highlighting the Department of Labor’s five-year plan.
  • Bonnette presented a Labor and Employment Update and led a discussion titled Legal Issues in Social Media at the Healthcare Association of Michigan (HCAM) UP Conference on May 2.
  • Senior attorney Cliff Hammond presented Labor Trends – Unions: Should I Care? at the Jackson, Mich. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference on April 25.
  • Hammond explored the Right to Work changes in Michigan with Union Avoidance -Unions: Why Should I Care? and led the discussion on the changes the new law brings to employers in Michigan at the April 24 Human Resource Day in Lansing.
  • Partner Tom Schramm discussed Hiring and Firing: Do’s and Don’ts during a Detroit Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) webinar on April 18.
  • Bonnette visited Fox2 News on April 9 to discuss an emerging workplace trend during the Job Shop segment titled, Allergies at the Workplace.
  • Bonnette led the discussion titled Identifying and Dealing with Bullying at Work: A Mock Internal Investigation, at the ICLE in Plymouth on April 5.

About Nemeth Burwell, P.C.: Nemeth Burwell specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest women-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.
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Fast food industry seen as next frontier for union organizing as workers walk off the job in protest

Public interest groups, churches join rallying cry for higher wages, benefits and work hours

Detroit, Mich. —May 17, 2013 — In Milwaukee this week, fast-food workers from several different chain restaurants walked off the job and rallied for wage hikes to $15 an hour. It was not an isolated incident, though. Labor attorney Cliff Hammond of Detroit-based employment law firm Nemeth Burwell, P.C., says the walkout is a national trend and similar activity has already been seen in Detroit, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and New York as unions seek to expand membership amid a dramatic drop in traditional core union membership of manufacturing workers over the past 10+ years.

“Fast food workers are the next frontier for union organizing activities because that job sector represents a large group of potential members who, until recently, have been completely untouched by unions and their organizing efforts,” says Hammond. “What is interesting about this particular trend is that the force behind the protests is not only the unions (UFCW/SEIU).This is a collaborative effort among unions, public interest groups and even religious organizations and leaders to bring attention to perceived low wages, part-time work hours and a lack of benefits. The groups view these types of actions not only as a means to organize employees into unions, but to publicize and draw greater attention to their common goals, including social causes and significant increases in minimum wages.”

Hammond, who was employed as an attorney for the SEIU (the nation’s largest service workers’ union) prior to going to the management side of labor and employment law at Nemeth Burwell, knows first-hand about the recruiting tactics involved in obtaining new union members.

“Union organizing is a strategic sales strategy initiative. Enlisting church pastors, community organizers and other public interest groups is yet another way to draw attention to worker issues, gain sympathetic supporters and ultimately convert workers to union members. It’s a survival strategy and it’s a good one,” says Hammond.

Hammond advises restaurant franchisees to be aware of the fast food worker organizing trend and communicate with their employees, community groups and local church leaders to foster good will, develop relationships and make an investment in the community. At the same time, employers in the fast food industry need to be prepared with a plan should there be a one day protest at one of their restaurants. Hammond says such a plan must consider the following:

  • Deciding what discipline is appropriate for employees who walk out. The type of discipline should be consistent with how the restaurant has handled similar violations in the past.
  • Replacement of employees who walk off the job. Restaurants may want to establish an ongoing relationship with a temporary staffing agency.
  • Education of managers about the do’s and don’ts of what to say or not say to avoid potential liability under the National Labor Relations Act.
  • Determining where picketers may lawfully picket at a particular restaurant to insure the picketers are complying with the law and the restaurant can continue to operate.

Union organizing activity isn’t dying out, even in states like Michigan where there has been a legislated shift to “Right to Work”.

“Unions are aggressive and persistent by nature. In some respects, the new Michigan Right to Work law has stimulated union activity. The walk-out by fast food workers in Detroit is a perfect example,” says Hammond.
About Nemeth Burwell, P.C.: Nemeth Burwell specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest women-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.
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Nemeth Burwell to Look at Michigan’s New Right To Work Law: What Does it Mean for Employers, Employees and Organized Labor?

Detroit, Mich. — December 12, 2012 — Labor law experts Patricia Nemeth and Cliff Hammond, attorneys at Detroit-based employment law firm Nemeth Burwell, P.C., will present an overview on Friday, December 14th of the historic legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder that makes Michigan a Right to Work state. The presentation and Q&A will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy.

“The rapid move to making Michigan a Right to Work state will have an immediate impact on the climate of labor relations in Michigan. Nemeth Burwell’s overview of the legislation will answer employer’s most pressing questions on what Right to Work actually means in the day-to-day operations of the workplace, even in non-union settings,” explains Patricia Nemeth.

Cliff Hammond brings an interesting background to the discussion, having represented private and public sector employer clients at Nemeth Burwell since 2007 and, prior to that time, serving as labor counsel for the Service Employee International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest service union.

Overview of Michigan’s Right to Work Legislation

What: Nemeth Burwell presents an overview of Michigan’s new Right to Work legislation and its impact on the workplace and employer/employee relations

When: Friday, December 14, 2012; 8.00 a.m. registration; 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. presentation and Q&A

Where: MSU Management Center; 811 W. Square Lake Road; Troy 48098; Directions available here.

Cost: $30.00 payable by cash or check at the door

To Register: Please pre-register by contacting Amanda Galletti at Nemeth Burwell; agalletti@nemethburwell.com or 313.567.5921

About Nemeth Burwell, P.C.: Celebrating 20 years in 2012, Nemeth Burwell (www.nemethburwell.com) specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest women-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.
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