News Story

Michigan Nurse Sues Teamsters For Taking Illegal Union Dues

Genesys Medical also on the hook for going along

A Flint area nurse is suing Teamsters Local 332 and her employer, Genesys Regional Medical Center, for demanding that she pay union dues despite her quitting the union in February 2018. Under the Michigan right-to-work law enacted in 2012, workers in a unionized workplace cannot be compelled to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

The plaintiff, Madrina Wells, contends that the Teamsters ignored six separate requests from her to stop deducting dues from her paycheck. The union demanded that she make payments for the period covering July through December 2019. In addition, Wells claims that Genesys forcibly deducted a Teamsters’ agency fee payment from her paycheck in August 2019 and took the full amount of union dues from her October paycheck.

Wells is represented by attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a public interest law firm that represents employees whose rights are violated by abuses of compulsory unionization laws. The foundation says that Teamsters officials at Wells’ workplace are illegally demanding dues from her and that Genesys is illegally seizing them from her paycheck.

“Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to litigate this as far as necessary to vindicate Ms. Wells’ rights,” Patrick Semmens, the foundation’s vice president, told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “Unfortunately, Michigan union bosses have a long history of violating the rights of rank-and-file workers when it comes to illegal forced dues demands as evidenced by the over 100 cases brought with National Right to Work Foundation legal aid for Michigan workers since Right to Work went into effect.”

But the Teamsters argue that Wells is not protected by the state’s right-to-work law, because it only applies to contracts entered into after the law took effect in April 2013. The union’s attorney, John R. Canzano, also points to contract clause provisions of both the United States and Michigan state constitutions, which prohibit the government from impairing private contracts.

“This lawsuit is completely without merit as a matter of law and appears to be nothing more than a publicity stunt,” he said. “As Local 332 has repeatedly reminded Madrina Wells, the Right to Work law does not apply here—as specifically stated in the law itself—because Local 332 and Genesys are parties to a lawful and valid collective bargaining agreement entered into before the law went into effect. In short, Local 332’s private contract with Genesys is Constitutionally protected, and Local 332 is acting lawfully under that contract and the Constitutions and Laws of the United States and the State of Michigan.”

The legal defense foundation filed the case in a Michigan state court, on grounds provided by the state’s right-to-work law. According to a press release from the foundation, Wells seeks a ruling that will make Teamsters officials “end all illegal dues demands and pay ‘damages and/or equitable restitution’ to her for all the dues that they seized from her, plus interest.”

A win for Wells would also be a win for other workers across the state who are being compelled to subsidize union activities against their will, according to the foundation.

“It is unfortunate that rather than change their ways and seek to win the voluntary support of the workers they claim to represent, Michigan union bosses continue to seek to force them to pay up or be fired,” Semmens said. “Until Big Labor stops violating the rights of rank-and-file workers, Foundation staff attorneys will continue to bring cases to defend those workers against these forced unionism abuses.”