Fort Worth, Tex. (July 18, 2003) – After a lengthy delay, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Office has issued an amended complaint alleging that union officials illegally forced objecting workers to pay compulsory union dues without a proper audit.
With free legal aid from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Billy Lee, a cafeteria worker at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, filed unfair labor practice charges against the Laborers’ Local 1168 union, an affiliate of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), in 1993. Lee also filed a supplemental challenge in 1997.
In recent days, the NLRB announced that it intends to prosecute the union before an administrative law judge next month. The key issue is whether the local must provide the workers with an audit to justify the seizure of compulsory dues, which local union officials avoided.
“This sort of bureaucratic stonewalling amounts to an effective denial of Billy Lee’s rights,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “While it is encouraging to hear the NLRB will finally take up the case, this sort of delay is inexcusable.”
Employees who work on exclusive federal property are not protected by Texas’ highly popular Right to Work law, and therefore they can be lawfully compelled to pay certain union dues as a job condition, so long as the employees’ due process rights are observed.
However, the complaint accuses LIUNA Local 1168 of unfair labor practices against non-union members by failing to provide them with an audit of how they spend workers’ forced dues. Upon resigning from union membership in 1992, Lee was simply provided with a one-page sheet on the local’s expenses. He never received an “audit” of the local bargaining versus non-bargaining expenses.
Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court ruling Communications Workers v. Beck, workers are entitled, at their request, to an immediate exemption from, and refund of, compulsory union dues that are spent for activities not directly related to collective bargaining, such as politics. In addition to audited disclosure of union expenditures, Lee seeks a refund of all forced dues spent on non-bargaining activities, plus interest, since he resigned from formal union membership.