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Ohlendorf v. United Food & Commercial Workers International Union

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

February 22, 2018

Robbie Ohlendorf; Sandra Adams, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, Local 876, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: February 1, 2018

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:16-cv-01439-Paul Lewis Maloney, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Amanda K. Freeman, NATIONAL RIGHT TO WORK LEGAL DEFENSE FOUNDATION, INC., Springfield, Virginia, for Appellants.

          J. Douglas Korney, LAW OFFICES OF J. DOUGLAS KORNEY, Farmington Hills, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Amanda K. Freeman, William L. Messenger, Glenn M. Taubman, NATIONAL RIGHT TO WORK LEGAL DEFENSE FOUNDATION, INC., Springfield, Virginia, for Appellants.

          J. Douglas Korney, LAW OFFICES OF J. DOUGLAS KORNEY, Farmington Hills, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: SUTTON, KETHLEDGE, and LARSEN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

          The Labor Management Relations Act makes it a crime for an employer to deduct union dues from an employee's paycheck and for the union to accept the dues, except if the employee consents by signing an authorization form, often called a dues checkoff. Robbie Ohlendorf and Sandra Adams signed dues checkoff authorizations with their employer in 2013. When they tried to revoke them three years later, they did not follow the protocol for revoking their consent, and the union insisted that they do so. Ohlendorf and Adams sued the union in response. Their putative class action lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive relief on the ground that the union violated the Act and its duty of fair representation. The district court dismissed the complaint as a matter of law. Because this criminal law does not create a private right of action and because the union did not act arbitrarily or in bad faith, we affirm.

         I.

         Ohlendorf and Adams worked for Oleson's Food Stores in Michigan. The collective bargaining agreement between Oleson's and Local 876 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union allowed Oleson's to deduct union dues from their employees' paychecks if the employee signed an authorization form. The form provided that the checkoff authorization would be irrevocable for one year or until the termination date of the agreement, whichever occurred sooner, and thereafter for yearly periods unless revoked by certified mail during a 15-day window each year.

         Ohlendorf and Adams joined the union in 2013 and signed the authorization forms. Three years later, they resigned their membership and tried to revoke their permission. But they sent their written revocations by regular mail, not certified mail, and did so outside of the 15-day period for revoking authorization. The union refused to accept the revocations for that year. The ...


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