The Teamsters union violated federal labor law when it attempted to discipline 54 workers who refused to participate in a "sympathy strike" during the bitter Southern and Central California supermarket labor dispute, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled.
In a decision handed down Wednesday, Administrative Law Judge William Kocol ordered International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 952 in Orange to notify members that they had a right to retroactively opt out of full membership in the union, though they must still pay fees to cover the expense of collective bargaining activities.
By resigning full membership, the workers can avoid fines of $200 to $7,400 for crossing picket lines set up by the United Food and Commercial Workers union in front of Albertsons and Ralphs distribution centers and other facilities in Orange County during the strike and lockout, which ended in February 2004 after nearly five months. The fines were levied but never collected. The workers were also expelled from the union for periods ranging from 10 to 15 years, according to the decision.
The judge ruled that the union never properly informed the workers how to opt out of full membership and placed unduly complicated requirements for taking such action. Federal labor law frees workers who are not full members from union sanctions as long as they pay fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining.