USW’s rule forces nonmembers to renew objection to forced dues each year
Morgantown, WV (November 17, 2008) – National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the United Steelworkers national union for two Morgantown workers for its illegal scheme to coerce them to pay full union dues.
Chemtura Corporation employs approximately 80 workers at its Morgantown factory who are “represented” by the USW. Because West Virginia is not a Right to Work state, nonmembers are forced to pay certain compulsory fees to the union, but only for activities which union bosses can prove are related to collective bargaining. Previous Foundation-won litigation has established that workers have the right to refuse formal union membership and that union officials may not charge nonmembers for activities like political activism, organizing, and member-only events.
The USW forces David Yost, Ronald EchegarAy, and other similarly situated Chemtura employees to renew their objections to payment of full union dues in a 30-day window period each year. Nonmembers who do not annually renew their previous objections are suddenly assumed to be “non-objectors” and against their will and without their consent are compelled to pay full union dues or lose their jobs.
In contrast, union officials do not need to get new consents each year from union members, re-establishing that they want to remain members and continue to pay dues through payroll deduction. As the charges explain, the USW’s policy is discriminatory and “solely designed to burden objecting nonmembers.”
With its arbitrary “Nonmember Objection Procedure,” the USW has violated its duty to represent fairly nonmembers in good faith. Moreover, federal labor law does not grant certified unions the authority to convert nonmembers into “non-objectors” without their consent.
In June, Yost sent a letter to USW union bosses asserting his procedural rights under Communication Workers of America v. Beck and related cases. The Supreme Court has held that unions must provide nonmembers a statement breaking down the union’s expenditures, verified by an independent auditor, and the opportunity to challenge the basis of the fee. In his letter, Yost declared his intent to file unfair labor practice charges if the union did not consider his objection permanent and continuing. Echegary sent a similar letter in August, before his objection was to expire. In both instances, a USW lawyer replied that the employee would need to re-object each year.
“It is unbelievable that United Steelworkers union bosses expect nonmembers to follow these arbitrary and illegal union procedures,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.