NLRB Sticks to Its Stand: Unions Don’t Have to Give Objectors Detailed Spending Data Beforehand

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Reaffirming its previous positions, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled unions don’t have to give detailed data on their spending to workers who object to spending on anything except contract bargaining and administration, before the workers even file those protests.

 

The board issued that stand in a case involving United Food and Commercial Workers Local 700, Kroger Food Stores in Crawfordsville, Ind., and worker Laura Sands.  When she took a job at the store, the union sent her enrollment materials.

 

They included a required notice – called a Beck notice – that said if she did not want to be a member, she could seek to pay only that share of monthly dues, called a “fair share” fee, which covers just the costs of bargaining and enforcement.  That’s a standard notice to all workers, without a detailed breakdown of how much the union involves spends on everything from paperclips to politics.

 

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said unions must give all the detailed data to the agency-fee payers beforehand.  But that would be “saddling unions with administrative and financial burdens that many unions might find impossible or impractical to meet,” the NLRB majority said.  The court sided with Sands and sent the case back down to the board for a new ruling, but the board replied the court misread prior the key prior NLRB case on the issue.

 

“The board’s established initial notice requirements already meet employees’ fundamental need for information about their right to object, without imposing any significant burdens on their decisions whether to do so,” the board majority ruled.  The vote was 3-2.

 

For the first six months she was at Kroger, Sands paid full dues. Then she changed her mind and filed a Beck request.  She also claimed Local 700 should have given her details – what it spends on everything – right at the beginning, accompanying the standard Beck notice.

 

The board majority said the first Beck notice can be general, not specific.  It said the court misread the1986 Hudson case from Chicago, a fee-payers’ ruling, to side with Sands.

 

Hudson did not address the question presented here: Whether, under a different,

multi-step dues system, a union must calculate and specify in its initial notice to employees the specific amount of reduced fees and dues that would apply if the employee chose to become a nonmember and then elected to become an objector,” the board majority wrote.

 

“Rather, Hudson concerned a union’s dealings with employees whoalready had the status of objectors and from whom the union already was collecting reduced fees.  Those circumstances” justified the Supreme Court’s “statement that ‘basic considerations of fairness, as well as concern for the 1st Amendment rights at stake’ required the nonmembers to

‘be given sufficient information to gauge the propriety of the union’s fee.’”