News Story

Part-time grocery worker says AG had to intervene in dues skim

Michigan attorney general’s office helped employee use his legal right to opt out of union membership

Lee Mills, a Kroger employee, says his union continued to take dues from his paycheck despite his multiple attempts to opt out.

Mills got a job with Kroger in 2015, two years after Michigan’s right-to-work law took effect. Right-to-work allows workers at union shops in Michigan to stop paying unions but keep their jobs. It opens the “closed” shop.

Mills still had to pay dues to United Food and Commercial Workers Union for a while after the law took effect. That’s because the contract he was working under had not expired, and the law allowed existing contracts to continue until their ending date.

Kroger and the UFCW agreed to a new contract in August 2020.

With a new contract in place, Mills opted out of paying the union, as was his right under the law. But the union continued to take dues out of Mills’ paycheck.

Mills works part time to make ends meet during the winter, and he spends time up north in the summer. The UFCW took approximately $12 from his paycheck each week, or $624 per year.

“I am a part-time employee who receives no paid time off, health, medical or dental benefits,” Mills told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “There is no benefit to being part of a union.”

Mills said he could& negotiate his own wage. Kroger management has always treated him well and been accommodating when he needs time off, he told CapCon.

The union, he said, has not been as accommodating.

Even after Mills opted out, the union took dues from him. This happened twice in 2022, he said.

The first time it happened, Mills said, the union returned the money within 30 days. Then it happened again, though he did not realize it until three or four paychecks had passed. Once again, he asked the union to stop the deductions and said he wanted a refund. The union told him there was a processing or computer issue, and it would be taken care of shortly.

It never was.

After several months, Mills reported the union to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. In August, the attorney general’s office sent a letter to the union. The union sent a refund check to Mills on the same date the attorney general’s office contacted it.

Mills told CapCon he hopes the right-to-work law is not repealed. He says if he is forced to rejoin the union, he will look for another job.

UFCW had 46,389 members in 2012 when right-to-work became law. Membership dropped to 40,578 in 2022, a 12.5% decrease.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.