Unfair Labor Practices

Key Fact

The UFCW and its locals have been charged with dozens of unfair labor practices for coercing workers, getting employees fired illegally, or other breaches of workers’ rights.

What many people don’t realize is that charges are often filed against unions when they fail to represent their members.

The UFCW constitution includes a blanket clause that forbids members from filing a legal challenge, unless they’ve exhausted every other option within the union’s leadership. However, the UFCW is vague about what constitutes “exhausting all remedies.”

UFCW’s locals have “exclusive” powers to “interpret and enforce” the negotiated contract (see sample below from Local 1546 bylaws).

Local 1546 Bylaws

Many unions refuse to file grievances on behalf of members. When members are permitted to file their own grievances, then there is no guarantee that the union will act on a grievance that you file. Many union members file NLRB charges against their union due to the union’s failure to file or process a grievance.

What are Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs)? 

An unfair labor practice occurs when an employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) are violated.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, “employers and unions may not restrain or coerce employees who are exercising their rights under the NLRA. In a union workplace, the employer and union are obligated by law to bargain in good faith with each other over terms and conditions of employment, either to agreement or impasse.”

You can read a basic guide to the NLRA here.

Can unions commit unfair labor practices, or just companies? 

Unfair labor practices are actions by an employer or a union that violate the NLRA. Therefore, unions, not just companies, can commit unfair labor practices.

In the past several years, the UFCW International has had charges filed against it for refusal to bargain/bad faith bargaining, for refusal to furnish information, and for concerted activities (retaliation, discharge, discipline). Examples of charges filed against UFCW locals are described below.

Examples of Unfair Labor Practice Charges and Lawsuits Against UFCW Locals

  • In 2019, UFCW Locals 1445 and 1459 had unfair labor practice charges filed against them by two Stop & Shop workers. These employees claimed the union “deceived” them into believing “union membership was a condition of employment.” After the two employees resigned their membership, they asserted that “union officials threatened them with discipline.”
  • In 2019, a Shop & Stop employee in New York filed an unfair labor practice charge against UFCW Local 464A. The employee alleged that the union “falsely told him that he could only resign from union membership by quitting his job.” The employee also argued that, when pressed about his rights to not support the union, he was repeatedly told his employment hinged upon his union membership.
  • In 2015, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge ruled that UFCW Local 135 “illegally restrained and coerced grocery store employees by requiring them to appear at the union office in person to file objections to paying full membership dues.” The case came as a result of an unfair labor practice filed by an employee who was told he would have to appear in person at the union office to receive more information about dues payments.
  • In 2012, a UFCW Local 1149 member filed a change against the union claiming that, in response to employee complaints about lack of representation and poor working conditions, the union “posted a sign in three languages, English, Spanish and Burmese, stating ‘Do not sign any papers that you do not understand. Bring them to the union office and we will translate or explain it to you.’”
  • In 2006, an unfair labor practice charge was filed against UFCW Local 648 for causing an employee to be fired for failing to pay union dues and for failing to notify the same employee of her right to be a non-union member and to pay reduced fees to the union.
  • In 2005, two employees filed a lawsuit against UFCW Local 881, alleging the union did not do enough to inform members about ongoing contract negotiations — including changes to employees’ health and pension benefits — leading union members to push to decertify the union. These employees also claimed the union failed to let members vote to ratify the collective bargaining agreement or to vote on the merits of boycotting their employer.
  • In 2005, UFCW Local 619C led members to strike and picket at their place of work. An unfair labor practice was filed against the union leader for threatening workers on several occasions and putting up a sign that warned workers that they would lose their jobs if they crossed the picket line.

Local 1546 ULPs

This union has been charged with 88 ULPs since 2001. Allegations against the union include “excessive fees” and “refusal to bargain.” Between 2017-2019, Local 1546 was charged with nine ULPs.

Local 881 ULPs

This union local has been charged with 50 ULPs since 1998, including allegations of “coercion” and “statements and violence.” Between 2017-2019, Local 881 was charged with seven ULPs.

Shopper’s Question: What if I am being pressured to vote for the UFCW and really don't want this union?

Instacart’s Answer: You have rights to protect yourself. You have rights to work without bullying, harassment, and discrimination. We’d hope that others would respect your rights, but if not, you can file your own charge at the NLRB. You can bring a complaint to Human Resources. If you are involved in a union election, you can vote NO against the union.

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