A worker at a Houston-area Kroger store has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers union alleging that the retailer unlawfully withheld union dues from her paycheck.
Jessica Haefner claims that she opted out of joining UFCW Local 455 but had union dues docked from her paycheck anyway, according to the National Right to Work Foundation, which said it is providing her with free legal representation in the matter.
The filing claims that Haefner last August attended a mandatory orientation meeting in which a UFCW representative told her she could opt out of paying union dues by entering “$0” in the union dues field of a form she filled out, which she did, but later discovered that dues were being withheld from her paycheck anyway. She claims the $0 had been replaced on the form with a figure of “several dollars.”
Haefner also claims that onboarding literature stated that Kroger management had the “opinion that you should participate and be active in the union,” according to the NRWF.
Brandon Hopkins, president, Local 455, said the union denies the allegations in this case.
“The employee who filed the charge joined the union in August 2022 and never questioned the union about the dues deductions, until the charge was filed in February 2023," he said. "Since the union was unable to determine whether her application had been altered or not, the union notified Kroger to cease the dues deductions.”
Kroger could not be reached for comment.
The filing against Kroger and the UFCW follows a handful of others involving food and drug retailers and the UFCW, including one against Giant Eagle last month in which an employee sought to shun union representation because they said it was against their religious beliefs, and another against the UFCW for allegedly threatening to fine two King Soopers workers in Denver who opted not to participate in a strike.
The recent charges against retailers and the UFCW also come following a surge in union membership in 2022, according to a recent Bloomberg Law analysis.
At the same time, the NLRB also reported an uptick in unfair labor practice charges filed in 2022, after two years of declines. There were 17,998 unfair labor practice charges in 2022, up from 15,081 in 2021 and 15,869 in 2020.
When charges are filed with the NLRB, they are first investigated by agency regional field examiners and attorneys. More than half of all charges are withdrawn or dismissed, according to the NLRB. In cases where an investigation finds probable merit, the majority settle by agreements between the parties. If no settlement can be reached, the regional director issues a complaint detailing the alleged violations.
Last year, there were 738 complaints issued, up from 678 complaints issued in 2021.