Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NLRB overturns major precedent regarding union dues

Even though recent right-to-work decisions in Indiana and Michigan present the potential for large numbers of workers to opt out of paying union dues as a condition of employment, a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board will allow unions another avenue to collect union dues.

Issuing a ruling in WKYC-TV, Gannet Co., Inc., the Board ruled that even when a union agreement expires, employers should still collect union dues from employees' paychecks. This goes against a long-standing precedent which dates back fifty years, which allowed employers to stop collecting union dues when a collective bargaining agreement ends.

This ruling will give labor unions another incentive to drag out contract negotiations and less incentive to negotiate in good faith with employers. But prolonged labor contract negotiations do come with a risk to workers, as evidenced by the decision of Boeing to open a production facility in South Carolina and the decision to close Wonder Bread. But as union dues are the lifeblood for organized labor, which has seen it's numbers continue to decline in recent years, this kind of ruling is one that means they can keep collecting money, even when they're not delivering results for their members.

In Bethlehem Steel, the NLRB, relying on the proviso to Sec. 8(a)(3) that “nothing in this Act shall preclude an employer from making an agreement with a labor organization to require as a condition of employment membership therein,” held that an employer acted lawfully in unilaterally ceasing to honor a contractual union security clause.

The Board ruled that this new opinion would only apply to future cases.


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