In a little-noticed NLRB announcement during April, the Labor Board is seeking input on a union fund raising initiative that has long been deemed illegal under federal labor law, at least since 1947. Unions are arguing that they should be allowed to charge non-members fees for handling grievances involving their employer, even though the union is representative of all bargaining union employees under the federal labor law, whether they are union members or not. In other words, the unions are arguing that if you don't put pay us in union dues, you need to pay us for representing you if we handle your grievance. This would be a rather revolutionary way in which such matters are handled, and the fact that the NLRB is requesting input on the issue suggests the NLRB is considering another dramatic change in the law. The case is Buckeye Florida Corporation, a subsidiary of Buckeye Technologies, Inc., and Georgia Pacific, LLC, Case 12-CB-10954. In that case, administrative law judge William Nelson Cates issues a decision on March 24, 2014, finding that the union violated Section 8(b)(1)(A) by maintaining and implementing a "fair share policy" requiring non-member bargaining union employees to pay a grievance processing fee. The union asked the NLRB to adopt a rule allowing unions to charge non-members a fee for grievance processing. On April 15, 2015, the NLRB invited the filing of briefs in order to allow other interested persons the opportunity to address the following question: "Should the Board reconsider its rule that, in the absence of a valid union-security clause, a union may not charge non-members a fee for processing grievances?" The due date for filing such briefs has recently been extended until July 15. The law judge in the case was recommended for his position by Jim Wimberly.

Unions argue that right-to-work laws make it harder to form and maintain unions, and encourage "free riders" who receive benefits of collective bargaining without paying for them. In making such arguments, the unions forget that they themselves were the origin of the principal of "exclusive representation" that unions represent all employees covered by a bargaining relationship and/or a collective bargaining agreement, whether such employees are paying union dues or not.

Such an approach as advocated by unions is not without risk to them. Employers argue during union organizational campaigns that employees will incur the costs of the union dues by voting in the union. In right-to-work states, the unions respond that such statements are false, as employees can elect whether or not to be union members and pay union dues. Thus, if the current union initiatives should become law, employees will end up paying for a union whether in a right-to-work state or not.

Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

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