NLRB General Counsel and Company Seek Detailed Financial Accounting in Beck Disclosure, NLRB Members Say No

Kroger employee Laura Sands, pursuant to CWA v. Beck, notified her union, UFCW Local 700 in Indiana, that she objected to paying the full equivalent of member dues and fees. The union said her financial obligation would be reduced by about 14%. Sands did not challenge the reduction; rather, she filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that she was entitled to additional, specific information regarding how union dues are spent at an earlier stage in the Beck objector process.

Beck objectors are employees who are members of a union but opt to only pay union dues covering collective bargaining and contract administration, not political activity or for lobbying efforts. Unions must inform employees before they collect money from them under a union security clause that they have the right to pay this reduced dues rate. Workers also have the right to receive information sufficient to make an intelligent decision on whether and how to object. Further, employees must be apprised of the percentage of their dues reduction, the basis for that determination, and their right to challenge those figures.

In a surprise move, the NLRB General Counsel sided with Kroger, a Kroger employee Beck objector, and the two management-side Board Members in urging the pro-union Board majority to require unions to inform workers of the specific details of the potentially reduced fees and dues if they were to become objectors in the initial Beck notice. The pro-union Board majority was not persuaded. Specifically, the Board majority held that the D.C. Circuit Court erred when it concluded that unions must provide specific reduced payment information when initially notifying employees of their obligations under a union security clause. Further, the Board rebuffed having unions provide additional payment information earlier because of the “risks of saddling unions with administrative and financial burdens that many unions might find impossible or impractical to meet” – now isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?