Recent Trump NLRB Ruling Protects Rights of Individual Employees
Trump NLRB Targets Forced Dues-Funded Lobbying
Long-Awaited Reversal of Lawless Geary Ruling a
‘Good First Step’
Just over three decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court
confirmed in Beck v. Communications Workers of America, a case argued
and won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, that
forced dues-paying private-sector workers who never join or resign from the
union have certain rights.
In particular, such independent-minded workers have the
right under federal law to pay a forced, but reduced, union “agency” fee rather
than full forced dues in order to keep their jobs.
(Of course, in Right to Work states, 21 in number at the
time Beck was decided in 1988, with six additions since then raising the
total to 27, unionized employees who choose not to become union members may not
be fired, period, for refusal to pay dues or fees to Big Labor.)
Moreover, stated Beck, objecting workers’ forced fees
may not be spent on lobbying unless that lobbying is somehow an integral part
of negotiations between union officials and members.
Obama NLRB Effectively Gave Big Labor a Green Light to
But seven years ago, Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB) gave union bosses a green light to force nonmembers who object to
the use of their “agency” fees for anything other than bargaining to pay for
virtually all, if not all, Big Labor lobbying.
Effectively ignoring Beck, the Obama NLRB contended
in Geary that it’s okay for union chiefs to force objecting nonmembers
to subsidize union lobbying activity if it “may ultimately inure to the
benefit” of the employees under the union’s monopoly-bargaining control.
National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix
explained that, in practice, this was no limitation at all:
“Big Labor always claims its lobbying and electioneering
schemes ‘ultimately inure to the benefit’ of unionized workers. Consequently,
if Geary had stood, Beck protections against forced dues for
union lobbying would have been gutted.”
In 2014, the Supreme Court’s unanimous Noel Canning
decision invalidated Barack Obama’s putative “recess” appointments of two of
the three NLRB members who had signed on to the Geary decision, on the
grounds that the Senate was not actually in recess when the appointments were
made. That means Geary was issued by an illegally constituted Board.
For Years, NLRB Stonewalled Instead of Fulfilling Its Duty
to Reconsider Geary
But for years after Noel Canning came down the NLRB
stonewalled instead of fulfilling its legal duty to reconsider Geary.
Finally, this January, Right to Work attorneys, acting on
behalf of Jeanette Geary, an independent-minded Rhode Island nurse and union
nonmember, and a number of her colleagues, filed a court petition seeking an
order that the NLRB take action on their case, which was still pending without
a valid decision.
‘Court Precedent Compels Holding Lobbying Costs Are Not
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit subsequently
granted Ms. Geary’s petition, ordering the NLRB to respond by March 4.
Just three days before the deadline, the Board finally
In a sweeping 3-1 decision, the NLRB held that United Nurses
and Allied Professional (UNAP) union bosses had unlawfully spent forced union
fees forked over by Ms. Geary and other union nonmembers on lobbying
“We believe that relevant Supreme Court and lower court
precedent compels holding costs are not chargeable” to union nonmembers who
assert their right under Beck to refuse to bankroll Big Labor’s
nonbargaining activities, said the Board majority.
The NLRB also held that UNAP officials had violated the law
by failing to provide Ms. Geary “with an audit verification letter” in support
of their claim that the forced fees they were demanding of her were permissible
Just before the NLRB took belated, but positive action in Geary,
the Board’s top lawyer, Trump-appointed General Counsel Peter Robb, issued
instructions to agency regional directors and other staff about how to ensure
employees’ Beck rights are practicable, and not merely theoretical.
Workers Have a Right to Know They Don’t Have to Be Full
One key point emphasized by Mr. Robb in his memorandum is
that, in order for Beck rights to be meaningful, union operatives must
be required to let employees know they have a right to “be or remain”
nonmembers at the same time as the union “initially seeks” to collect
forced dues or fees from the employees.
Moreover, union operatives must also acknowledge, at the
time they are making demands that employees bankroll the union, that the
employees who are not members have the right not to pay for any and all
nonbargaining activities conducted by the union.
“The NLRB reversal of the lawless Geary decision and
General Counsel Robb’s memorandum on unions’ duty to notify employees of their
rights under Beck and other related High Court decisions together
constitute a step in the right direction,” said Right to Work President Mix.
“But it is a travesty that, more than three decades after Beck
established minimal free-speech protections for forced fee-paying
private-sector workers, those protections remain so precarious.”
Federal Forced-Dues Repeal Would Furnish Genuine Free-Speech
Mr. Mix continued: “The fact is, as long as federal policy
authorizes union officials to extract forced union dues and fees from millions
of unwilling employees, the freedom of workers to refuse to bankroll political
and ideological causes with which they disagree will be in danger.
“Long experience has shown that no court precedent or
regulation will deter unscrupulous union officials from using nonmember
workers’ forced fees for politics when they think they can get away with it.
“Fortunately, 27 states now have Right to Work laws on the
books prohibiting forced union membership, dues and fees.
“Employees in such states are truly and consistently
protected from being forced to finance Big Labor’s favored causes and
“But it remains Congress’s obligation to crack down on
forced-dues lobbying and electioneering and protect the free-speech rights of
private-sector employees across the nation.
“And this objective can be accomplished by passage of a
national Right to Work law that repeals the handful of provisions in federal
labor law under which millions of employees are still being forced to bankroll
Senate Right to Work Measure Currently Has 20 Cosponsors
This spring, the Right to Work Committee is continuing to
work with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to build Capitol Hill support for S.525,
federal forced-dues repeal legislation that Mr. Paul introduced in February.
“No citizen,” commented Mr. Mix, “whether he or she is a
worker, a small-business owner, a student, a housewife, or a retiree, should
ever be ‘compelled’ (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson) to ‘furnish contributions
for the propagation of opinions’ that he or she ‘disbelieves and abhors.’
“Rand Paul’s S.525, also known as the National Right to Work
Act, would put a stop to what Jefferson properly called a ‘sinful and
tyrannical practice.’ It is currently cosponsored by 20 senators.”
Soon after this Newsletter edition goes to press at the beginning of April, pro-Right to Work U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is expected to introduce a House companion measure to S.525. [Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) has introduced the National Right to Work Act (HR 2571) in the U.S. House. ]
Once federal forced-dues repeal measures are before both the Senate and the House, the Committee will begin mobilizing freedom-loving citizens nationwide to push for committee hearings and floor votes on Right to Work in both chambers of Congress.