NLRB Rules Union Lobbying Expenses Not Chargeable

Private sector unions cannot use fees paid by nonmembers to fund their lobbying efforts.

A nurse resigned her union membership and objected to the assessment of dues and fees for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment based on her Beck rights. According to Beck, unions can only use funds collected from nonmember employees for activities that are germane to a union’s core representational duties of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment. The nurse filed the charges after union officials failed to provide evidence of a legally required independent audit of its breakdown of expenditures.

The Board agreed “while certain lobbying efforts may in general relate to terms of employment or may incidentally affect collective bargaining, the lobbying activity is not part of the union’s statutory collective-bargaining obligation and, therefore, is nonchargeable” to Beck objectors. If charged, the union violates its duty of fair representation to its members.

The Board rejected the argument that lobbying is a representational function even though here, the lobbying was in response to proposed legislation that would be the subject of collective bargaining.

The Board majority also held that it is not enough for a union to provide objecting nonmembers with assurances that its compilation of chargeable and nonchargeable expenses has been appropriately audited. Citing the “basic considerations of fairness” standard adopted by the Supreme Court, the Board held that a union must provide independent verification that the audit has been performed. Failure to do so violates the union’s duty of fair representation.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at