When Brunilda Vargas, a Philadelphia public defender, told her United Auto Workers (UAW)-affiliated union she didn’t want to sign the automatic deduction authorization form for her union dues, she said she was threatened. She responded by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Now the union has agreed to a settlement.

The news came on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Janus decision, which freed public sector employees from mandatory unionization as a condition of employment. And a new report found membership in the largest unions has fallen about 1o percent since the June 27, 2018 ruling.

Vargas said threats were made against her and her colleagues at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. Those threats came from a UAW union official and were made against public defenders who chose not to sign automatic dues deduction forms. Vargas made the filing with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRW). It called the result a “full victory” over the union.

“Vargas didn’t want to be forced to pay or sign a dues checkoff authorizing union dues to be taken out of her paycheck,” said William L. Messenger, vice president and legal director at NRW. “Under federal law, everyone, every private sector employee, has the right to choose whether or not to authorize these direct-payroll deductions union dues. In this case, the union president told Miss Vargas that she needed to sign the card; otherwise, she could lose benefits or perhaps even her job.”

According to NRW, the UAW entered into a settlement with NLRB saying it will now email and post notices to inform workers that UAW will not be working with employers to cut wages of non-union members that do not sign automatic reduction forms. UAW also will not be suggesting that not signing a dues deduction could lead to job loss.

As for a reaction to the settlement of the case, the UAW gave DVJournal a “no comment.”

“While we are happy that we were able to assist Vargas and her coworkers fight UAW misconduct, this instance is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to UAW malfeasance,” commented Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The recent federal probe into UAW officials stealing and misusing workers’ money has sent multiple top UAW bosses to jail and uncovered a shocking culture of contempt for workers’ rights.”

Because the Janus decision doesn’t cover her local municipal job, Vargas is still required to pay the dues, with or without an automatic deposit. That is why, Messenger said, Pennsylvania needs a Right To Work law.

“Because Pennsylvania isn’t a Right to Work state, Vargas can be required to pay some fees to the union,” says Messenger. “It’s called a Beck fee, and it’s not full union dues, but rather a reduced amount, and so unfortunately, she will have to pay some money to the union to keep her job, which we consider to be an injustice. Unfortunately, it is the state law in Pennsylvania right now. But at least she doesn’t have to sign up for payroll deduction, be a union member, and pay for union dues.”

Approximately 26 states and Guam have Right to Work laws. Pennsylvania legislators have debated the idea of becoming a Right to Work state but never went so far as to pass a bill in the House and Senate and get it signed into law by the governor.

Unions continue to argue that Right to Work does more harm than good, resulting in lower wages, fewer benefits, and unsafe working conditions. But they appeared to be losing that argument with federal employees.

According to the Freedom Foundation, “Federal reports show that, in the years since Janusmembership in the four largest labor unions representing public employees has declined by a whopping 733,745.”

“The declines have brought membership in some unions to the lowest levels on record and show no signs of abating,” the union watchdog organization said.

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