Monday, May 30, 2011
Help Me Howard: Union Dues
Would you pay to be a member of a union? Many people do and are very happy about it. But not everyone, including one South Florida woman who says she was tricked into paying union dues, wants to stop paying union dues and is not allowed to quit the union. Is that legal? It's why we bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Jazmin is a nurse.
Jazmin Kazravan, Done with Dues: "And now, I am strictly taking care of patients in surgery."
Not only has she cared for people in the U.S., but around the world.
Jazmin Kazravan: "I was doing volunteer work in the war between Iran and Iraq. A lot of soldiers that were stuck in the war zone, we as nurses would run and help them."
Jazmin is now working in South Florida.
Jazmin Kazravan: "I am a new employee at University of Miami."
Jazmin's first day on the job was typical, with lots of paperwork.
Jazmin Kazravan: "A lot of benefits paperwork. Insurance paperwork, new employee, job requirements. A lot of paperwork involved."
Part of that paperwork? This document from the United Healthcare Workers East Union.
Jazmin Kazravan: "I was never a union member, so I barely had any idea what the union represents."
The top half of the form authorizes the employer to deduct the union dues from Jazmin's paycheck. It doesn't say how much.
But in the bottom half, Jazmin was asked to donate to the union's Political Action Committee. Jazmin was a little confused, so she asked the union representative how much it would all be.
Jazmin Kazravan: "'Can you please specifically tell us: How much are we paying?' And he says, 'As little as $1 per pay period.' We decided to choose the $5. We're donating. It's OK."
When Jazmin got her first paycheck, she saw the $5 deduction, then saw another deduction for 2 percent of her salary for union dues.
Jazmin was stunned.
Jazmin Kazravan: "I was misled by one of the union representatives."
Jazmin contacted the union telling them to stop deducting 2 percent of her salary. They said she had to pay them for at least one year.
Jazmin Kazravan: "I don't want to be a member. I don't believe in them. I want to come out."
Well Howard, legally, can a union keep deducting dues from your paycheck after you tell them to stop?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "If you signed the contract, yes, they can keep deducting your money based upon whatever terms you agreed to. However, if Jazmin thinks she was misled, that could be an unfair labor practice that could get her out of the contract."
When Help Me Howard contacted the union, they agreed to return the dues Jazmin has paid and will stop deducting dues from her paychecks. In a strange twist, Jazmin will still be considered part of the union and will have to submit a letter next year to get out.
Also, their attorney told us they believe their form is clear, that they have thousands of happy members who had no problems understanding what they were signing up for when they agreed to pay union dues.
Howard disagrees with that opinion.
Howard Finkelstein: "No where on this form does it say that 2 percent of Jazmin's salary will be deducted for union dues, and when you are taking that much money from someone, you should make it clear, because if it's not, it opens the union to other members saying that they were misled."
Jazmin is glad to clear up her union headache, because she certainly loves going to work every day.
Jazmin Kazravan: "University of Miami is an excellent hospital, and I'm very happy to be there."
Patrick Fraser: "If you have a dispute with your employer or union, contact the National Labor Relations Board. They will investigate, and if you were misled, ask the union or employer to correct it. If they refuse, they will take them to court for you."
Nursing a problem? Ready for a cure? Get in union with us. Because odds are, you are due some help for free.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Federal Building, Room 1320
51 SW 1st Avenue
Miami, FL 33130-1608
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com