Join the union, or lose your job.
That was the ultimatum union officials delivered to John Kabler on his first day as a liquor store clerk. John didn’t know it at the time, but that simply wasn’t true. Now, two years later, he wants his money back and out of the union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1776 (“UFCW”).
From his first day of employment, UFCW officials told him he had to be a union member as a condition of employment. Mr. Kabler later found that was not true and resigned his union membership, but UFCW rejected Mr. Kabler’s resignation, relying on state law and a restriction within a collective bargaining agreement between United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Council (“UFCW Council”) and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which limits union member resignations to a 15-day period.
When Mr. Kabler was hired as a liquor store clerk, he and other new employees were forced to attend an orientation session where a UFCW official told them that they must join the union as a condition of their employment. UFCW reinforced this notion by sending Mr. Kabler a letter signed by UFCW officials, which stated, among other things, that if he did not remain in good standing with UFCW, then he would be taken off the work schedule and not permitted to work. Believing he had no choice, Mr. Kabler regretfully joined the union at the orientation session, even though he never wanted to be a union member.
It was only later into his employment that Mr. Kabler discovered that union membership could not be a condition of employment. Once he learned that, Mr. Kabler tried to resign his union membership in July 2018, sending resignation letters to UFCW and his employer. Mr. Kabler’s employer responded by denying his resignation and pointing to the 15-day window period provision in a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and UFCW Council. Every few years the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enters into a collective bargaining agreement with employees who are represented by UFCW. As a Commonwealth employee under the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, Mr. Kabler is subject to the terms and conditions of that CBA.
UFCW officials never contacted Mr. Kabler to confirm his resignation, and union dues continued to be deducted from Mr. Kabler’s wages for many months after he resigned his union membership in July 2018.
John R. Kabler, Jr. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1776 Keystone State; Wendell W. Young, IV, in his individual and official capacities; Michele L. Kessler, in her individual and official capacities; Peg Rhodes, in her individual and official capacities; United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Council; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board; Thomas W. Wolf, in his official capacity as Governor of Pennsylvania; Timothy Holden, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board; Michael Newsome, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Administration; Anna Maria Kiehl, in her official capacities as Chief Accounting Officer and Deputy Secretary for the Office of Comptroller Operations