While many workers around the country are fighting to get their dues money back from unions in the wake of Janus v AFSCME, some seasonal UPS workers in Boston are dealing with a very different problem this Christmas season. It seems that some employees who were hired to help with the holiday surge of shipping were informed that they would need to join the Teamsters to take part in these temporary jobs. Imagine their surprise when they finished putting in a lot of overtime during their first week on the job and opened up their paychecks, only to find that the union had taken all of their pay except for an amount that would barely buy two people dinner at McDonald’s. CBS Boston has the story of Sheila O’Malley, who found herself in exactly that position with little time left before Saint Nick arrived.

Sheila O’Malley of Charlestown couldn’t believe it when she opened her paycheck from her seasonal job at UPS. “I was shocked,” she told the I-Team. She worked 41 hours that week, many of them during the overnight, and ended up with just $14.52.

Sheila assumed it was a mistake and the money would be refunded. In part, because Sheila, like other thousands of other seasonal part time UPS workers, signed an agreement to pay the $500 Teamsters union initiation fee in $32.00 weekly installments. But UPS told her it wasn’t a mistake. A spokesperson for UPS told the I-Team, “Local 25 reversed this long standing practice by rescinding this policy.”

It wasn’t just Shelia. According to the CBS report, this happened to literally thousands of UPS workers. And it’s been going on for a while now, though not with this same result. In order to get these temporary jobs, the workers have to agree to join the Teamsters. And for the “privilege” of having a job and being able to earn a living over the holidays, they charge them a $500 “initiation fee.” That sounds like a pretty good name for it because this sort of punishment is reminiscent of pledging a fraternity, only the pain comes in the pocketbook rather than being thrashed with a paddle.

Previously, workers were able to have this ransom money taken out of their checks gradually, but this year the policy changed. The entire amount was taken out of their first check, essentially erasing their entire payday. When Shelia tearfully asked them to reconsider, her new union boss is quoted as telling her, “You’re a part of the union now and you won’t have to worry about that coming out of your check.”

You’re a part of the union now.” That doesn’t sound too ominous, does it? If the guy had been wearing a Darth Vader mask he could have been talking about the Empire.

Welcome to union work in the 21st century. Shelia appears to have said it best when she told the reporters, “I thought they were supposed to protect our rights.”

For the record, the Teamsters reversed the new practice after this happened and will be going back to taking partial payments over a period of time. But nobody has offered to give back the lump sum they took from Shelia and the rest of the seasonal UPS employees this year.