NLRB Decides Unions Can't Force Nonmembers to Pay for Lobbying Expenses

March 22, 2019

The National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB” or “Board”) on March 1 issued an opinion expanding the rights of “Beck objectors” –  i.e., those employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement but who choose not to become a member of the union. 

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 ruling in Communication Workers v. Beck, nonmember objectors can be compelled to pay only the portion of union agency fees that are necessary to the union’s performance of “the duties of an exclusive representative of employees in dealing with the employer on labor-management issues,” which are activities related to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.  In the present case, United Nurses & Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital), the Board definitively held that lobbying activity is not a representational function – even when the union is lobbying over legislation affecting collective bargaining – and that lobbying expenses are not chargeable to Beck objectors.

Citing “basic considerations of fairness” inherent in a union’s statutory duty of fair representation, the Board also held that unions are required to provide Beck objectors with verification that the financial information disclosed to them has been independently verified by an auditor.  Noting that prior decisions already require unions to independently verify the financial information, the Board found that unions “must take the modest additional step” of supplying verification from the auditor to the objector.  The verification provides “essential information objectors need to decide whether to challenge the propriety of the union’s fee,” the Board said.

While the decision does not require employers to take any immediate action, AGC members operating under collective bargaining agreements with dues checkoff provisions will need to modify the amount of money withheld from Beck objectors if notified by the union of the need to do so in light of the decision.  Beyond that, the significance of the decision lies in the potential hindering effect on unions’ ability to raise funds for lobbying purposes.

AGC members can access additional information on the legal issues of dues checkoff, union security clauses, and related matters in the Labor & HR Topical Resources section of the AGC website under the main category “Collective Bargaining” and subcategory “Union Security Agreements.”

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