Two men will be receiving over $30,000 in back pay after winning a settlement against OMG Midwest, an Iowa-based company with a Belle Plaine location that has completed multiple projects for the city of Belle Plaine.
The settlement comes after two employees, James Connolly and Charles Winter brought forward unfair labor practice cases charging OMG Midwest for illegally firing them after the pair refused to join the Teamsters Local 120 union, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the legal nonprofit representing the two.
The workers will receive the back pay settlement, all references to their termination will be removed from their personal files and the company will be required to post notices at their Belle Plaine facility, but charges against Teamsters for union officials’ alleged roles in what the foundation characterizes as illegal termination and rights violations are still pending.
“Although it’s good news that Mr. Connolly and Mr. Winter have won these settlements which require OMG Midwest to make reparations for violating longstanding worker protections, the fact is that Mr. Connolly’s and Mr. Winter’s charges against the Teamsters union are still pending,” Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said per a release. “NLRB Region 18 [the regional arm of the National Labor Relations Board] must swiftly prosecute Teamsters Local 120 officials so these two men’s rights can be fully vindicated.”
In his charges, Connolly recounted asking Teamsters officials via email whether or not he would be compelled to join the union as part of the job. In response, the union official replied, “Sorry James but yes you have to join,” according to the foundation.
Later on May 1, a representative from OMG Midwest reportedly relayed the same information to Connolly. On May 9, Connolly responded to the company, stating his unwillingness to formally join the union. OMG Midwest reportedly fired Connolly the next day.
In June, Winter filed similar charges against OMG Midwest and the union after a company-wide meeting in which a Teamsters representative told him and other employees that union membership is required in order to get or keep a job. On May 20, Winter replied to an email from OMG Midwest and stated that he would not join the union. The foundation alleged that he was reportedly fired by the same company representative by email the same day.
Winter’s charges also state that Teamsters officials gave him a membership form that was missing an estimate of reduced union fees that union nonmembers would be required to pay.
Both men’s charges argued that the misinformation about membership and their firings clearly violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the “right to refrain from any or all” union activities. Winter also charged that the union violated his right under Beck to be a nonmember and pay only the part of union dues directly germane to bargaining. As part of the settlement, OMG Midwest is required to include “a Notice of Beck Rights” in the rights notices it will disseminate to all bargaining unit employees.
Because Minnesota has not enacted Right to Work protections for employees, union bosses can have private sector workers fired for not paying fees to a union. However, union officials can only require workers to pay the portion of dues allowed by Beck and must follow certain Beck procedures before seizing such forced fees from workers who are not union members.
"This is one of those things that is just a disappointment," Mix later told the Herald in regards to the charges. "What we’re talking about is something that’s been illegal since 1963."
"It’s outrageous that we have to go over this over and over and over again," he later added.
Mix added that OMG Midwest's willingness to settle with Connolly and Winter demonstrates their willingness to provide corrective action to the situation.
The Belle Plaine Herald left messages for the legal representation for OMG Midwest named in National Labor Relations Board Documents on Wednesday.