by Scott McClallen
Two Minnesota construction employees won a settlement against OMG Midwest, an Iowa-based company with a business in Belle Plaine. The men alleged the company illegally fired them after they refused to join the Teamsters Local 120 union.
James Connolly and Charles Winter filed unfair labor practice charges in June 2019 with the help of the National Right to Work Foundation (NRTW), a Virginia-based nonprofit.
The two claim OMG Midwest and union officials wrongly told them several times that union membership was contingent upon employment.
The settlement requires OMG Midwest to pay over $30,000 in back pay to the two men by March 31.
Connolly’s complaint says he emailed Teamsters officials on April 9, 2019, to ask if he had to join a union as part of his job, adding that he preferred not to join.
The charge claims a union official replied, “Sorry James but yes you do have to join.”
An OMG Midwest representative repeated that wrong information to Connolly on May 1, according to charges, when Connolly again resisted joining the Teamsters union on May 9.
OMG Midwest fired Connolly the next day, the charges say.
Winter filed similar charges against OMG Midwest and the Teamsters union.
Winter’s charge says that a Teamsters’ representative told employees at a company-wide meeting that union membership is required to keep their jobs.
Charges say the union later gave Winter incomplete information regarding non-union member fees.
Winter refused to join the union on May 20 and was fired the same day, filings say.
Both charges allege membership misinformation and their firings violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the “right to refrain from any or all” union activities.
Winter also alleged that the union violated his right under the 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision by not allowing him to be a nonmember and pay only union dues related to bargaining costs.
The settlement orders OMG Midwest to remove termination references from the employees’ files, post “a notice of Beck rights” in its workplace, and distribute that notice to all employees.
Minnesota isn’t one of the nation’s 27 Right to Work states, so union leaders can have private-sector employees fired for not paying union fees.
“Although it’s good news that Mr. Connolly and Mr. Winter have won these settlements, which require OMG Midwest to make reparations for violating longstanding worker protections, the fact is that Mr. Connolly’s and Mr. Winter’s charges against the Teamsters union are still pending,” NRTW President Mark Mix said in a news release.
“[National Labor Relations Board] Region 18 must swiftly prosecute Teamsters Local 120 officials so these two men’s rights can be fully vindicated.”
Mix told The Center Square that it’s been illegal since 1963 to tell someone they must formally join and become a labor union member to be employed.
“Ultimately, Minnesota legislators need to pass Right to Work protections for their state’s private-sector employees, which will ensure that union bosses must use persuasion – not illegal intimidation or threats of firing – to secure the support of workers,” Mix said in a news release.
OMG Midwest didn’t reply to a request for comment.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.