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  • authored by <NewViewerActivist>
  • published Fri, Oct 18, 2002

Can Member Be Sued By Union??

Hi All:

I have just found your site and I think it is GREAT!! I can't seem to find any sites like it. Who ever put it together, did a great job.

I am greatly interested in the "real" goin's on in a Union (from a member's point of view) and not just the "PR" stuff Unions put out.

I would like to start my own site focusing on my Union (and my profession) and would like to know if anyone happens to know whether I can get sued by my Union for speaking out?? What if I name specific people in the Union?? Does anyone here happen to know?

If I send information to the members of my Union or post information on my website regarding the Union's income & spending, treatment of grievances, etc., can I be sued??

Also, does anyone know why there aren't many sites that educate Union members as to their ACTUAL rights and their "individual rights" vs just the "rights" espoused on paper but won't be recognized due to the "interpretation" and implementation of those rights? For example, that "just cause" provision in a CBA is almost worthless if the Union decides not to pursue your cause, be it good reason or not. Furthermore, a violation of a DFR claim is next to impossible to win.

I would also like to find out about individual DFR claims. That is, where a member tells his/her story about how s/he was treated by their Union in his/her representation. Does anyone know of a good sources or any sites for this also?

Should anyone know of any sites that they would recommend for this type of information or really good sites on the history of unions etc., I would very much appreciate it.

Finally, do I have to be a member of your Union to register or participate in this site?

Thank you.

NewViewerActivist

  • posted by <yankeebythewater>
  • Fri, Oct 18, 2002 2:41pm

It is entirely up to you...hey, anybody can sue anybody, you just have to have good lawyers. You have to be willing to give your all to fight for your cause. You have to have faith in what you believe in, what you struggle for, and the belief that you are not willing to give up. Far too many rank and file members sit back and give nothing, they do not or are unwilling to speak their mind. They seem to have an attitude that all what they have today was always there...and that is simply not the case.

Ultimately, it will rest in your mind - go with your gut feeling.

This a website that is friendly, people will help you. Read messages from Remote Viewer and Licatsplit - these people are very aware of what is going on in the world/unions.

Good Luck, Friend ~

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Fri, Oct 18, 2002 6:53pm

YBTW is right: Anybody can sue anybody for pretty much anything they want. Whether they'll win is another matter. You're probably less likely to get sued by a union in the US (where there are some laws to protect your right to speak out in your union) than in Canada (where you have no protection at all).

A lot depends on the union you belong to. Some are less likely to pound on their members for exercising their constitutional rights than others. Some would just grin and bear it rather than risk the bad publicity that would come from suing somebody for criticizing them.

As far as we know, the UFCW takes the cake in the suing-the-public department. They're suing this web site and a number of members for saying unpleasant things about them. This may keep some people from saying anything about the "Voice for Working America", but it isn't stopping others. YBTW is right again: It goes with the territory. You can either stand up and speak out or sit meekly on the sidelines.

What kind of stuff should you do or not do? I'm sure we could write a book on that (somebody probably has I'm sure). There is no iron clad recipe for lawsuit avoidance but there are some things that you can do that will help protect yourself. Maybe some of the other contributors can help us make a list.

I'll start:

Say what you know to be true.

Don't say things that you know are false.

If what you are saying is your opinion, say that it's your opinion.

Don't call people "crooks" unless they really are crooks (they've been convicted of something criminal). Calling them corrupt, however, should be OK from what I understand because corruption can mean many different things.

Where you can, reference your sources. Information from public sources is really good to work with because what you're saying is already out there in the public domain.

I'll post more as it comes to me.

BTW, welcome to MFD. You don't have to be a member of any particular union (or any union at all) to register and join in the discussions here. Everyone who is concerned about working people is welcome here. I hope that you are able to tell us more about what's happening where you are.

  • posted by <yankeebythewater>
  • Fri, Oct 18, 2002 8:09pm

If an individual is secure in what they believe in, he/she will fight for the just cause. It does not constitute to any union or any membership to a union. It is has become clear that many elected union officials have shafted the rank and file, they have benefited from your years of dues you paid into a fund that you may never see. It shatters my nerves to see what may happen in the next 5 years.

You go forth and there will be people here to help you.

As mentioned, previously, licatsplit and remote viewer are instrumental in educating people.

  • posted by <yankeebythewater>
  • Fri, Oct 18, 2002 9:03pm

Remote Viewer - can you post or explain how the UFCW has grounds for suing..'this website'. And suing rank and file members...amiss

  • posted by sleK
  • Fri, Oct 18, 2002 10:46pm

YBTW:

You can read the writ of summons here:
web page

And the statements of defense, my mothers and my own, here and here.

BTW, welcome to MFD NewViewerActivist!

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sat, Oct 19, 2002 1:23am

Welcome NVA! Glad to have you here!

YBTW, thanks for the compliments, but actually all of us here at MFD are both educators and students simultaneously. We share information readily and believe me, I learn something practically every day!
NVA, If you live in the U.S., the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, is the federal law that provides rights for most private sector union members. You can view a list of your rights in the (LMRDA) here . You can also go here for a list of reform organizations which are primarily run by the members.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sun, Oct 20, 2002 8:26am

This thread will give you some insight into the UFCW's "grounds" for its various lawsuits including the one against this web site. As far as I can see, there are no "grounds".

My view is that they file these suits to discourage criticism of their union and its officials, to try to keep members away from web sites where they are going to pick up information that the UFCW doesn't want them to have and to send them a strong message: "Speak up and this is what will happen to you".

You can appreciate that for someone who is not making big piles of money, the prospect of having to fight a lawsuit (even a bullshit lawsuit) on their own can be very daunting indeed.

I am not aware of any other labour organization that is suing this many people for essentially the same reason. The really pathetic thing is that in the case of Steve Guiliano, Sharyn Sigurdur and Bill Gammert (all UFCW members, in good standing), the UFCW is using these members' dues to try to silence them. They have no shame.

  • posted by Bernardus
  • Sat, Oct 26, 2002 11:23am

They certainly can try and get an injunction against any bad publicity: see limites on freedom of speech

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Oct 26, 2002 1:06pm

If you notice though, the judge imposed the injunction in a very narrow way - it was to apply to specific posts and specific posters (or their BB handles only) and there was to be a time limit on it as well. I think what might have tipped the balance in this case were the kinds of comments the posters were making. It seems they were calling the guy a "crook" and that, as I understand it, is where you can get in trouble because it's like an accusation that he's been involved in criminal activities. Of course, if he is, then it should be OK, but if he isn't or if you don't know, then it's potential for trouble.

The UFCW tried to get an injunction against Bill Gammert for saying unkind things about them on his web site and posting their constitution (he's a member). They walked away from their first day in court with their tails between their legs. The judge apparently gave their lawyer a dressing down and ordered them to post their constitution on the Internet.

  • posted by NewViewerActivist
  • Sat, Oct 26, 2002 7:18pm

Hi all:

Sorry I haven't been able to respond recently, I am in Federal Court against my previous employer, who discharged me in violation of a "just cause" provision contained in a CBA, which was also contained in an "individual contract." That was 1.5 years ago. My union promised me arbitration hearing and an attorney. They have provided neither.

I have had to bear the expense of a private attorney and have had to resort to the Federal Court system.

I now have to change my current private attorney for another attorney, which is very time consuming and expensive in the "dupication of effort" and having to "repeat my story" to another attorney.

I think the Union bought off my current attorney or threatened him. Since the Union attorney finally decided to get involved (since I filed my lawsuit) my private attorney has been impossible to get along with and constantly threatens to "withdraw." I don't believe that that is a coincidence. (Incidentally, I had always kept my attorney's bills paid, so payment couldn't be a problem.)

There are more facts and I could make this posting incredibly long with those facts, but for now, I welcome any thoughts or advise anyone can give me.

More on this if anyone is interested. I'll check back later.

Thanks again for a great site.

NVA

  • posted by <yankeebythewater>
  • Sat, Oct 26, 2002 7:49pm

Friend, I do feel for you, but you are going to have to explain or post your circumstances.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 1:16am

NVA, by all means post as many details as possible! Let's discuss your particular situation and maybe someone has already dealt with something similar to what you're going through now. Everyone here brings with them knowledge gained through unique experiences of injustice.

  • posted by NewViewerActivist
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 8:14am

Hi again:

Some more facts on my case (remember, I was asked,) :

August of 1999, my previous employer contacted me due to an opening. That opening was the result of a teacher leaving abruptly (without notice) 5 days into the school year. During the interview, he bragged of all the rights even non-tenured teachers had incorporated into the provisions of the CBA.

My previous employer offers me the job. Initially, I turned him down (3 times) because I had tenure and recall rights a previous employer. He reminds me of the contents of the interview. He also states that the students will lose credit for the classes they are signed up for if I don't come in and teach because if I don't, he will have to cancel the classes and the students will have to go to study hall. My heart went out to their plight, so I accept. I also went to my Union Rep. and asked him if the CBA pertained to me even though I was not tenured with this employer (The CBA used the term "any" teacher in its "just cause" provision. He assured me that it did pertain to me. Anyone reading this should understand that I had had previous dealings with this Union Rep. where I thought he sold me out, but I couldn't prove it, at that time, it was more of a gut feeling that he had backstabbed me. . .more on that another time)

My first year went well. My evaluation were all satisfactory to highly satisfactory (most was HS). At the end of my first school year, I am told that they are losing another teacher for the majority of the following year because he is in the National Guard and is being deployed to the Middle East. I am told they need to spread out his classes and would I take one, so they don't have to hire out. I am told this will only be for one semester, then they will lighten my load. I am also told I will be getting a new computer lab (the old pc lab was horrible, barely workable). During this time, they knew I was trying to get back to my old employer where I had tenure. The new lab wasn't set up until after the start of the following year. Central office was late with ordering.

January of my second year there, I tell my supervisor that now that I have a lab that I can work with, I would like to revamp the department and offer new classes that could not be offered with the old pc's, like Microsoft Office, desktop publishing etc. I also wanted to add classes that the students might find interesting such as Business Law and Entrepreneurship. I get the green light. I go through the the time consuming and painstaking development of the curriculum for the new courses to be implemented the following year. Again, my evaluations were satisfactory to highly satisfactory.

I had been at my previous employer for a year and a half. They knew it was quite a commute from where I was living. Everthing they were doing suggested that I would be there for at least several more years. Such as, revamping the department would take several years to fully develop and incorporate into the department, getting the new lab, AND THE "JUST CAUSE" PROVISION OF THE CBA CLEARLY STATED THAT BEFORE ANYONE COULD LOSE THEIR JOB, THERE HAD TO BE A WRITTEN PLAN AND REMEDIATION AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS AND CORRECT ANY DOCUMENTED SHORTCUMMINGS, ETC. There had been none for me. Between the CBA and assertions made to me, I felt confident I would be with this employer for at least a few more years. I started the process of purchasing a home to be closer to work. They knew that.

The day after I applied for a home loan I went to my boss and asked what my status would be for the following year because I was in the process of acquiring a home to be closer to work (he knew about my commute). He assured me I would be back, although it might be 5/7 time, but that could turn back into full-time. I had found a place that cut my commute by 2/3, and I was comfortable that even if it was 5/7 time, that I could handle it. So I committed myself to the new place. Additionally, I wouldn't see another deal like the home that I had my eye on and I couldn't just let it go. The place fit me and turned a 45-55 min commute into a 10 minute commute (both one way).

For my reader, the law here for dimissing a teacher is that the employer must notify that teacher in writing 45 days prior to the end of the year. Additionally, according to the CBA the employer must adhere to the "just cause" provision and the written "plan" before you can dismiss a teacher. There wasn't enough time to do all that in the next 2 weeks or so that they had left by this point in time. Additionally, I felt confident that the students would love Microsoft Office and the desktop publishing and the other new classes I had been developing (as do the students at the schools that I researched and visited that offered those courses) and the numbers would increase in my department once the students had a chance to try these new classes.

Not quite 3 weeks after that meeting with my boss where he assured me I would be back, he calls me into the office and declares that I will NOT be back the next year. He said that they decided this at the last board meeting. I checked the dates, the last board meeting happened 1 week BEFORE the time I asked him if I would be back. I asked him why he didn't tell me when I asked. He said that his boss told him NOT to tell me. I told him that I was now committed to the new place. I also reminded him that I was there when they lost their teacher five days into the first year and I was there when they lost the other teacher this year. I also reminded him that the CBA had not been followed. None of that mattered to him.

A couple a days later, I went to the Union Rep. "Clear violation of the CBA," he declares. "Don't worry," he says "You'll be back next year." The grievance process begins. We are in late March early April at this time.

Next board meeting, in OPEN SESSION the board adopts a resolution where they declare that I was being dismissed and they publish their "reasons." I am, to this day, too hurt to repeat their "reasons." Suffice it to say, those "reasons" are very insulting and hurtful and were NEVER spoken to me until I read them in their published resolution AFTER the fact. (My reader should note, here I am 1 and half years later and in Court, and they still won't (CAN'T) produce any documentation nor can or will they produce evidence for those insults they published.)

Between early April and May, we go through the obligatory first 2 steps of the greivance. During the first step of the grievance, the meeting is between my boss, Union Rep., and me. I confront my boss and ask why he didn't tell me the truth when I asked about my employment status for the following year. Boss admits in front of Union Rep that he didn't tell me the truth. Union Rep knows first hand that I was lied to. Oh, Union Rep. declares he "is going to take care of this."

Late June we get my previous employer's last "denial" of the grievance. Arbitration is next step. Union Rep. promises that an attorney and all my legal expenses will be covered. I get this in writing. Arbitration will occur in late August.

Late August (we are still in 2001) arrives, Union Rep gives what I thought was my Arbitration hearing, to someone else. He tells me that my Arbitration hearing has been changed to February of 2002. I ask why I have to wait so long. He tells me that Feb. is the next time this Arbitrator is available. He refuses to change Arbitrators.

I ask why I haven't been contacted by an attorney or been told how to get one according to our agreement. He stated that someone will get in touch with me when the hearing gets closer.

Late October 2001 I am getting concerned that no attorney has contacted me. I call the Union central office. A Union attorney calls me back and informs me that I have NO right to see the Union bylaws, that I have nothing to say about the upcoming Arbitration hearing nor do I have anything to say about how it will be handled, I will NOT be getting an attorney, it is NOT MY grievance it is the "Association's" grievance, Union Rep. will be representing the "Association" at the Arbitration, the "Association" has every right to handle "their" grievance how they see fit, that I am to sit still and patiently await Union Rep to contact me.

Middle of November, Union Rep. tells me that he will NOT be calling my boss to the stand (the one that he knew had lied to me). He tells me that you "never call a hostile witness to the stand." I said "but shouldn't the arbitrator know that I had been lied to?" He said that the arbitrator will get that information through my testimony. This did not make sense to me. I told him that since he wasn't going to call him to the stand, that I should take this on civily; that my attorney (I had acquired one on my own by now) needed documentation of the meeting where he [Union Rep.] witnessed that my boss admitted that he lied to me. Union Rep. gives me a letter where he documents that he witnessed my boss admitting that lied to me. I absolutely don't believe that he provided this letter to me.

In December 2001, Union Rep. tells me how he is going to handle arbitration hearing. He tells me that we won't address the "reasons" for my dismissal as stated in the resolution. Union Rep. tells me that there are laws that say if he "even mentions the "reasons" as stated in the resolution, that would invoke a case that he claims doesn't allow teachers to have "just cause" provisions in a CBA and then we would thereby lose the arbitration as a result. (Keep in mind that my Union Rep is NOT an attorney and I believe that I had been backstabbed by him before as I stated previously.)

He also tells me that won't be calling anyone from the employer's side to the stand. I ask him if I could provide a "personal statement" to the Arbitrator. He tells me that anything I have to say to the arbitrator would have to be in writing and that I would have to submit it to him "for approval" prior to the hearing.

The beginning of February, Union Rep. calls me in and tells me that Employer wants to settle because my case is so "strong." Union Rep. informs me that he has "postponed" the arbitration because we are going to settle. He tells me that I will get all of my non-monetary requests in a settlement (name and record clearing, letters of ref, confidentiality, etc.) and 1 year TRS credit; the only thing we are debating, he tells me, is the "number" (money).

The next couple of weeks numbers go back and forth that are around one year salary. I have now been unemployed for closing in on a year. I told Union Rep. that if we all can't come to a mutually acceptable agreement by the middle of March, I would have to file a civil suit, because of the statute of limitations on one of my counts. He said that my employer has offered $25,000. I told him that if we could conclude this matter in one week and that I had to see it in writing before I could be bound by anything, that that would be enough to end this ordeal. Even though I had been defamed, I wanted to go on with my life. (Of course, anything I agreed to had to clear my name. I could not live with those lies being apart of my record for any amount of money.)

The very next week, Union Rep. calls me and tells me that a new law was passed for TRS and that would cost the employer .4% more so they don't want to agree to their previous offer. I told him that .4% was only about $136 and he should just subtract that from their previous offer. He said "no" the employer won't agree to that, that he will have to get back to me.

During the next two weeks, Union Rep calls, the employer is now thinking about $22,500, next its "the employer is thinking about that", etc. I responded (in my exasperation) to all of that, that I would have to see it in writing before I could agree to anything.

Now we are in the beginning of March, and my one year is closing. I told Union Rep that on several occasions. I also told Union Rep. that the employer is going to continue this "settling" forever as long as that Arbitration hearing does not get rescheduled. Union Rep. refuses to reschedule the arbitration "as long as there is a chance of settling."

One day before statute of limitations on one of my counts, I file in Court. The next day Union Rep calls me and screams at me "we were 4 hours away from a settlement and your court case has destoyed any chance of that occuring now." I responded that we were "four hours away from more of nothing." I told him that I have lived with those lies on my record for a year and that was enough. It is made it impossible to find another job. And I want to know where they came up with their "documentation" or "evidence" for those reasons and that I won't be put off any longer. Finally, I told him that if we all can't come to an agreement in 3 days (my patience is really gone by now, and quite frankly I didn't want anything more to do with this ineffectual and backstabbing Union Rep. any longer.)

April 2, 2002, Union Rep gives me a proposed settlement agreement that I think he expected me to not read and nevertheless sign. Well anyway, this is what it said:

I had to release everyone under the sun from any and all causes of legal action.

I would receive $25,000 less deductions and less other "customary amounts under like circumstances."

I would have only 7 days to change my mind after I sign.

I had to withdraw my Court case
with predjudice.

To be paid anything, I would have to wait at least 10 days AFTER I withdraw my Court case AND after the Union withraws their grievence for payment.

If the employer breaches the contract, only the "Association" has the right to enforce the agreement.

The rest of the proposal was a bunch of non-sense legal mumbo-jumbo, I presume design to distract me.
**********************************

Can you believe that I was handed such a document? I believe, that to this day, had I signed such an agreement, I would still be begging the "Association" to enforce the ageement, ie pay me. Not too mention, I still don't know who determines or how they would determine what are "customary" amounts. Anyone know what would have been "customary?" Last, but certainly not least, there was no mention in that proposal of my name-clearing stuff, clearing my name has been my driving force.

One final thought for this note: I still can not believe that I took this job just to help them out from losing their teacher. I stayed the following year to help them again. The boss new that I could have gone back to my previous employer where I had tenure at the beginning of the second year. I was there to help them and had given up my tenured position, and all they could do is lie about me, lie to me, and fire me. I only tried to help them at their request. After I do.. . .

There is more to this story since last April, but I need a break.

More on this if anyone is interested. I welcome all thoughts, comments, suggestions, and advice.

Finally, we should start a thread on "what would the Union have done had NVA signed that agreement?"

Thanks

NVA

  • posted by siggy
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 9:12am

quote:


The boss new that I could have gone back to my previous employer where I had tenure at the beginning of the second year.


Gotta' love the system eh? Long, painful and oppressive. This could be something workers need in a bill of rights. The right to expedient (under 3 mo) resolution of grievances.

Is there any chance of getting your tenure back or is that lost too now because of the defamation?

  • posted by Bernardus
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 10:09am

The problem with unions handling grievances dealing with personal rights is that they make backroom deals. They could have dealt your rights away for something else unrelated to your case. The fact that you can sue the employer is certainly something the union could have used to bargain for something unrelated to your case. You were right not to trust the union. One should never forego deadlines that need to be met in order to assert one's rights while the union is draggings its feet. Sometimes unions drag their feet just for this purpose while they falsely make you believe that they are handling the situation. Most of the bargaining between unions and employers is done orally and you will never know about it. Think about it! Why would the union not want to prove that the employer lied to you? Probably because they were promised something in return for not pushing that issue. So, in short, if you want to protect your rights you have to do it yourself. You only have the union's post facto word that they were 3 hrs away from settlement. And, as you said, the union rep was dishonest before. So, I think you did the right thing.

  • posted by NewViewerActivist
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 12:13pm

Hi again:

Regarding whether I could get my tenure back:

1. I have to find an attorney that will fight my cause. As I said before, as soon as the Union attorney got involved, my attorney all of the sudden started to "misunderstand me" and wanted to withdraw. The Union attorney got involved after filed my lawsuit and when I refused to sign the bogus proposed settlement agreement. The Union attorney then wanted to get involved to "either help settle the case or take it to arbitration." hmmmm??? More than a year AFTER my discharge??? Could it have been for another reason?? I wonder.....

2. I might be able to get that position back if I can prove fraud, coersion, etc.... but it might mean another court battle.....the position was filled..... I can only handle one court battle at a time.... This one that I am in is too important to me...... my professional name is on the line. That relinquishment of tenure deal was what I was referring to when I said I had a problem with the Union Rep before. Sorry fellas.... I love men ..... but that was the result of a "good-ole-boy" deal. I can't prove it (that is, nothing more than circumstancial evidence) just something I know in my gut.

My Union Rep. makes over $100,000 a year. Union Reps have at least $6,000 going into their own retirement account per year, not to mention other benefits. All Union Reps in this Union make this much. The secretaries in this Union make $45,000 a year, far more than I do. The members in my Union DO NOT GET THESE BENEFITS, EVER!! I wonder if the other Union members know this??? I wonder if they know that, they too, would not be able to get their legal expenses paid if their rights are violated...that instead, their dues are paid to fatten Union Reps. like the one that was supposedly protecting my rights????

Here in USA, you can go to the Department of Labor website (www.dol.gov) and download the financials of ALL or ANY Union that operates in this country. Its kinda tricky to locate, but if anyone is interested in the financials of any Union organized or that operates in the USA, I could be more specific on how to find this stuff at the DOL website.

I think your UFCW financials are there.

And I couldn't get my attorney paid for even though I was promised one in writing by the Union Rep. and the Union has always bragged about protecting the rights of teachers. . . .

Well, not yet anyway.

NVA

  • posted by <yankeebythewater>
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 3:27pm

What a can of worms this is! This could well constitute Hollywood material. It is my opinion, that if you follow and are in agreement with the laws of your state, you have a very good, strong case.

It takes guts and a very strong individual to do what have undertaken, but it is your right to do so.

Please keep this website posted as to your progress.

  • posted by NewViewerActivist
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 4:57pm

Hi Yankee and All:

I will be happy to keep the site posted. But all of this I find myself in the middle of is very time consuming, not to mention some days I just don't feel like addressing it. But I somehow always persevere and get my second wind. Then I get madder as things become clearer as to what is really going on and what really has been going on.

I do have a favor to ask of you and any other readers. When I ask for comments, suggestions, & advice, I really mean that I want and respect other perspectives; I even need it.

Finally, yes, it is some can of worms, and believe it or not, I have only written about half of it. I don't know about Hollywood. . . but ya know. . .you just might have something there.

In parting, all thoughts & advice always welcome.

NVA

  • posted by sleK
  • Sun, Oct 27, 2002 5:31pm

comments: Good job stickin' it to 'em.
suggestions: Kick their goodfornuthin' asses.
advice: keep stickin' it to 'em.


If there's any way we can help turn up the heat under your "union", let us know.

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