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Stop & Shop Worker Unions Settle Unfair Labor Practice Cases (1)

Oct. 2, 2019, 7:01 PMUpdated: Oct. 3, 2019, 7:14 PM

Two local unions representing Stop & Shop employees reached an agreement to resolve charges that they violated federal labor law by misleading workers about union membership being mandatory, a conservative advocacy group announced Oct. 2.

The United Food and Commercial Workers affiliates in Massachusetts had faced unfair labor practice cases at the National Labor Relations Board. The cases stemmed from charges filed by a pair of Stop & Shop workers backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The UFCW affiliates agreed to post notices at about 70 Stop & Shop supermarket locations informing workers of their rights to not join the union and only pay fees to cover representational expenses rather than full union dues. The local also will post notices on its website and in its newsletter.

The two affiliates were among the UFCW locals that struck at Stop & Shop locations across New England last spring after contract negotiations stalled. The 31,000-worker strike was the largest in the U.S. retail industry strike in nearly two decades. The local unions eventually reached deals with the grocery chain.

Stop & Shop workers Matthew Coffey and Saood Rafique resigned their union memberships to return to work shortly after the strike began. They claimed that UFCW officials threatened them with discipline if they resigned. The workers said they’d previously been deceived to believe union membership was a condition of employment at Stop & Shop.

In addition to the notice posting, the unions agreed to refund money that Coffey and Rafique paid them for nonrepresentational expenses. They also must process any union resignations or objections to paying full dues filed by members who quit or will resign within a “reasonable period” of posting the notices.

“This victory for Mr. Rafique, Mr. Coffey, and their co-workers should serve as a reminder to all American employees—and union officials—that the individual rights of workers don’t cease to exist when union bosses call a strike,” National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement.

The unions negotiated contracts with higher wages and better benefits for the Stop & Shop workers, a UFCW spokesman said. The UFCW is focused on representing “hardworking men and women,” while groups like the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation “only want to destroy the progress made by the hardworking men and women striving to protect good jobs and provide for their families,” the spokesman said in a statement.

The cases are UFCW Local 1445, N.L.R.B. Reg’l Dir., Case 01-CB-243413, Settlement 9/25/19 and UFCW Local 1459, N.L.R.B. Reg’l Dir., Case 01-CB-239811, Settlement 9/23/19.

(Updated to add union comment.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at riafolla@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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