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From the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation:
IBEW officials violated nonmember worker’s rights by demanding non-chargeable union dues and failing to provide legally-required disclosures
Neosho, MO (July 23, 2018) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint in response to unfair labor practice charges filed by an employee of New-Mac Electric Cooperative against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 53. After James Feagins objected to paying full union dues beyond what he could be legally required to pay, union officials failed to provide him with information on union dues and spending. They also demanded that he pay about 94% of the full dues rate just to keep his job, including illegal charges for expenses outside the local bargaining unit.
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Feagins, who works in New-Mac’s accounting department, filed charges with the NLRB against Kansas City-based IBEW Local 53. The charge states that union officials violated Feagins’ rights by failing to provide him with legally required information of union expenditures, such as an independent audit, and charging him for union activities unrelated to bargaining.
Missouri’s Right to Work law is pending a voter referendum in August. Because the law is not yet in effect, employees like Feagins can be required to pay some fees to union officials as a condition of employment. However, even without Right to Work protections workers cannot legally be required to fund activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, and unions must follow certain procedures to justify the amount of the compulsory fee. As Feagins’ case shows, enforcing such rights absent a Right to Work law can be difficult.
In November 2017, Feagins, who is not a union member, objected to paying any fees to IBEW beyond the legal requirements. However, union officials failed to provide Feagins with a detailed explanation of union expenses to justify the amount they were charging him. Further, union officials continue to charge Feagins for non-bargaining activities. The fees they have demanded include organizing expenses from outside Local 53’s competitive market, which is illegal.
To protect his rights, Feagins turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance. Following a charge filed for him by Foundation staff attorneys, the NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, and has now scheduled a trial for October.
“Feagins chose to hold IBEW union officials accountable for their greedy neglect of employees’ rights,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As long as union officials have the power to force financial support from the workers they claim to represent, these types of violations will continue as union bosses seek to line their pockets with illegal forced dues.”
“This case underscores the need for Missouri workers to have the protections of a Right to Work law to make union affiliation and union financial support completely voluntary,” continued Mix. “Each and every Missouri worker deserves the freedom to decide for him or herself whether union officials deserve part of their hard-earned money.”
Union officials chalked up a staggering 3,633,290 hours of taxpayer-funded union time in 2016, at a cost to taxpayers of over $177 million in payroll costs alone for just that one year. This includes, for example, over $700,000 spent on travel expenses for union bosses in the Social Security Administration.
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