Federal Labor Board: Employees Need Not Object Twice to Obtain Detail of How Union Officials Spend Forced Dues
**Janesville, Wisc. (September 11, 2007)** – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, ruled that union officials cannot force nonunion members to object twice simply to receive basic information about how union affiliates spend the workers’ forced union dues.
By a vote of 3-2, the NLRB majority agreed with National Right to Work Foundation attorneys and chose to follow an earlier U.S. Court of Appeals decision (also won by Foundation attorneys) which the Clinton NLRB had refused to apply. This week’s NLRB ruling decreed that refusal to provide a breakdown of union affiliate expenditures violates the union’s “duty of fair representation” (DFR) owed to nonunion workers. The relatively vague DFR standard is intended to protect employees from arbitrary or deliberately discriminatory actions by union officials.
With free legal help from the Foundation, Brandon Jones, a former employee of Chambers & Owen warehouses, in Janesville, Wisconsin, originally filed unfair labor practice charges at the NLRB in October 2001. Jones challenged Teamster Union Local 579’s policy of refusing to provide employees information about how union affiliates spend their mandatory dues until the employee not only “objects” to paying for non-collective bargaining activity, but also further “challenges” the union’s diversion of funds to union affiliates. Affiliates include such entities as the national or regional union or the AFL-CIO.
Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court *Communications Workers v. Beck* and *Ellis v. BRAC* decisions, the high court recognized that workers have the right to refrain from formal union membership and have the right to object to paying for non-bargaining activities (such as politics, organizing, and lobbying). Under *Chicago Teachers v. Hudson*, non-members are also entitled to receive an independently audited breakdown of union expenditures and to challenge the breakdown before an impartial decision maker.
But the Clinton NLRB dramatically undercut the Beck decision and piled additional burdens on dissenting employees. Specifically, the Clinton NLRB applied the weak DFR standard instead of a stricter statutory standard to processing of Beck objections. In part, this meant that employees must resign or refrain from union membership and affirmatively object before receiving any disclosure of union expenditures. In this week’s ruling, dissenting NLRB members Wilma Liebman and Dennis Walsh (an activist union partisan who is reportedly jockeying for Senate confirmation with his recess appointment expiring in December) argued, like the Clinton NLRB, that employees should be forced to object a second time before receiving any meaningful disclosure from union affiliates. While this ruling does not correct many of the deficiencies of the NLRB’s *Beck* enforcement procedures, it does reverse one of its many anti-employee elements.
“This ruling is a small step forward for employee freedom,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “However, the Bush NLRB has a lot more work to do to put the agency on the side of the worker rather than the union bosses. And time is running out.”