The National Labor Relations Board has weakened the union practice of siphoning off non-member dues to fund lobbying efforts.
The board decision for private sector employees is similar in reasoning to a ruling late last year by the U.S. Supreme Court which held that it is illegal to require government employees to pay for political activities of public sector unions out of their dues.
In a separate 1988 decision called Communications Workers of America v. Beck, the High Court held that while workers may choose forgo union membership, the union can charge those employees, called nonmember objectors, for costs associated with core union activities, like collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance processing.
The resulting ability of non-union members exclude non-core costs from their payments later became termed “Beck rights.”
In the NLRB decision, former members of a nurses union who work in a private sector hospital asserted that their Beck rights had been violated by the union when it used their dues for political activities.
The NLRB held that lobbying is not part of union collective bargaining duties and unions cannot force Beck objectors to fund lobbying efforts.
“We believe that relevant Supreme Court and lower court precedent compels holding lobbying costs are not chargeable as incurred during the union’s performance of statutory duties as the objectors’ exclusive bargaining agent,” the board said.
“Lobbying activity is not a representational function simply because the proposed legislation involves a matter that may also be the subject of collective bargaining.”