Michigan union admits wrongdoing in illegal dues claim

An international union has settled a case with an employee of a Corpus Christi-based company who claimed he was illegally forced to pay union dues to retain his job.

The International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America settled the case earlier this month with Carlos Banuelos, a security guard with Asset Protection and Security Services. Banuelos, who works at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Port Isabel Service Processing Center, claims he was forced to pay union dues in December after being threatened with termination. A hearing scheduled for Oct. 4 in Harlingen was canceled when the union settled the case.

The settlement states that the Michigan-based union no longer will:

- Threaten Asset employees at the Port Isabel facility with termination if they refuse to join or pay into the union,

- Request that Asset discharge employees who don't join or pay into the union,

- Interfere with, restrain or coerce employees.

The union also agrees to remove from its records any unlawful request to remove Banuelos from employment with Asset. Calls to union officials late Monday afternoon were not returned.

Patrick T. Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, said the settlement favored Banuelos but is a victory for all employees of the detention center.

Scott Mandel, owner of Asset, said his business has not been affected by the case. Most of Asset's 425 employees have not had issues with the union.

"I anticipated a mass exodus when all this started, but it didn't happen," Mandel said. "There were a few people who had issues with the union and those cases have been resolved or dismissed. We're happy with the results."

Mandel said the company voluntarily stopped collecting union dues in August and has reimbursed the few who have requested it.

Union officials said they had a right to collect dues at the Port Isabel facility because it is considered a federal enclave, property and buildings owned by the federal government that operate under the sole authority of the federal government.

Attorneys for the Right to Work Foundation, who represent Banuelos, say no evidence has been found to substantiate the claims.


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