Employee Takes a Stand against His Union for Not Informing Him that He has a Right to Not Pay Full Union Dues

Are your employees fully informed of their Beck rights? Probably not. Unions hate Beck rights because employees can avoid paying a percentage of their union dues. This is oftentimes the only reprieve employees have in non-right-to-work states.

In Communication Workers of America v. Beck, the Supreme Court ruled that the National Labor Relations Act prohibited unions from collecting dues for political activities if a member chooses to opt out of the union. Unions can instead collect dues from non-members only for collective bargaining and other representational activities. Unions are required to prorate dues for these non-members. Of course, the devil is in the details as most unions claim most dues money goes towards non-political activity. Therefore, even when employees opt-out, they may still find themselves paying a larger portion of dues money than they anticipated.

Recently, a nurse’s aide in California alleged that he was not able to exercise his Beck rights because his union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), failed to properly notify him of those rights when he started to work at a unionized hospital. He was not informed that he had a right to be a non-member of the union. Instead, the union gave the worker a letter upon his hiring that stated, “You are automatically a member of the union.”

The SEIU ignored employees’ Beck rights and forced all new employees into full dues-paying union ranks instead of giving them the option to be non-members paying lesser, pro-rated union dues. Beck rights are especially important in non-right-to-work states where employees can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Companies in those states should consider informing their employees of their Beck rights during on-boarding and periodically throughout the year. We encourage companies to consult with competent legal counsel before educating employees of their Beck rights to avoid unintended unfair labor practice charges.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at maustin@ralaw.com.

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