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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Former union member sues union, ex-employer for violating right-to-work law

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By Kyla Asbury | Dec 27, 2019

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FAIRMONT — A former Tygart Center employee is suing her former union, claiming it violated the state's right-to-work law.

Donna Harper filed the lawsuit Dec. 17 in Marion Circuit Court against Chauffeurs, Teamsters & Helpers Local Union No. 175; and 1539 Country Club Road Operations LLC, which is doing business as Tygart Center at Fairmont Campus alleging the Tygart Center violated her legal rights by demanding she join the union and pay union dues and fees to keep her job.

“Teamsters union bosses demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law by illegally demanding Ms. Harper and her coworkers pay union dues and fees just to get or keep their jobs,” Mark Mix, the National Right to Work Foundation president said. “Contrary to Big Labor’s wishes, West Virginia’s Right to Work law is in full effect, meaning all union dues for workers covered by the law must be completely voluntary.”

Harper, who worked for the Tygart Center from February 2018 until September, claims she was informed when she began employment as a laundry aide and certified nursing assistant that she was required to join the union and her dues would be removed from her paycheck. Harper had previously worked for Tygart Center until November 2017.

The plaintiff sent a letter Feb. 4 to the union resigning her membership and revoking her dues checkoff authorization but received another letter two weeks later that the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act was not applicable to her, but that she could elect non-member status if she sent a second letter reaffirming her resignation and refused to revoke her dues checkoff authorization, according to the suit.

Harper claims she sent a second letter March 14 reaffirming her resignation and, again, revoking her checkoff, however, despite resigning from the union, the Tygart Center continued to deduce full dues from her paychecks. 

She claims the union told her in September that it could enforce the union security clause in her contract and require her to pay core fees because the contract was ratified before the right-to-work law was a valid law.

The union returned a total of $135 to Harper, which was not even half of what the union owed her, according to the suit. Her last day of employment with Tygart Center was Sept. 24. She claims her final checks still had union dues removed from them.

Harper is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Matthew B. Gilliam of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Harper's attorneys filed an amicus brief for her regarding her situation in June in the appeal involving Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and West Virginia AFL-CIO.

In the brief, her attorneys defended the right-to-work law, arguing that the circuit court erred when it disregarded federal labor law principals establishing that unions are richly compensated for performing duties acquired as the exclusive bargaining representatives.

Marion Circuit Court case number: 19-C-233

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