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Sconza Employee Files Federal Labor Charges Against Union
Sconza Union
Sconza employee Athena Manning filed federal charges against Sconza and Bakers Union Local 125 for unfair labor practices. Manning was suspended for a week in June for not joining the union when she was waiting for a breakdown of fees charged in the dues. RICHARD PALOMA/The Leader

A Sconza Candy Company employee has filed federal charges against a local bakers union and her employer for a litany of rights violations regarding mandatory union membership and a subsequent suspension she received for not joining the union in a timely manner.

With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Sconza employee Athena Manning filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

“There’s something rotten here with the union and Sconza,” Manning said on Friday, Nov 7. “The union doesn’t take care of their employees or their rights.”

Manning, who worked as a temporary employee in September of 2013, and hired as a full-time employee in March 2014, charges that Sconza management and Bakers Union Local 125 of San Leandro failed to notify her of her rights to refrain from full-dues-paying union membership. She also claims that in May, company and union officials also misled her about her obligations to the union, claiming that joining the union and paying full dues were required as a condition of employment.

Because California does not have Right to Work protections for workers, workers can be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. However, workers also have the right to refrain from formal union membership and paying for “union boss politics” and many other activities. Under federal guidelines, union officials must provide workers with an independently-audited financial breakdown of all forced-dues union expenditures.

“Unions have a purpose, don’t get me wrong,” said Manning, who has been trying to get a detailed breakdown of their fees, “but they didn’t help me get this job and sure aren’t helping me keep this job.”

Manning, who works at the Oakdale plant as a utility worker, said on June 9 she was called in by Sconza Operations Assistant Angie Hill and told the union was requesting that she be suspended. Hill told her she had no choice but to suspend her for the next week.

“The clause that was applied is a standard part of any union recognized contract in a non-Right to Work state,” said Sconza President and CEO Ron Sconza. “There was nothing illegal about it and we would never use it to suppress a worker’s rights.”

For the next couple of months Manning sought out where her required union dues would go with the possibility of being a “Beck objector” – where only a portion of the required dues would be paid that cover the costs of collective bargaining performed by the union.

“I want employees here to have information and a choice to prepare for what’s right for them,” Manning said.

In September, Local 125 union officials gave Manning a generic breakdown of union expenditures she claims failed to comply with federal disclosure requirements.

In September, after receiving a union packet and additional threats to her employment status by the union, Manning finally joined, agreeing to pay the $42 a month dues. The union later attached Manning’s wages for a $219 “initiation fee” and now is seeking $224 for back dues.

“Union and company officials actively misled and then punished this worker for exercising her rights, all in order to collect more forced dues cash for the union bosses’ coffers,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation in an email. “Independent-minded workers will continue to face similar schemes until California passes a Right to Work law, which would ensure that union membership and dues payment are completely voluntary.”

Union representatives did not return repeated messages left for comment by The Leader.

Sconza said the company maintains a good relationship with both the union and their employees and rarely has grievances.

“We have a very contented work force,” Sconza said. “Our employees are a very integral part of our operation.”

The charges will now be investigated by the NLRB, a federal agency charged with administering private sector labor law.