Union officials had police bureau rescind benefit after employees exercised their First Amendment right to abstain from formal union membership & dues
Murphysboro, IL (June 17, 2022) – Penn Aluminum International employee Mary Beck has filed a federal charge against International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 702 after union officials unlawfully seized money from her wages without her consent and without proving that a contract mandating such deductions is even in effect.
As detailed in the charge, the Murphysboro aluminum worker informed local union officials twice that they have no legal authority to deduct money from her paycheck, but union officials ignored her and instead illegally continue to seize full union dues, including dues for union political activity.
Beck’s charge was filed at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 14 in St. Louis with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Additionally, her case says union officials violated federal labor law by refusing to even respond to her requests to stop dues deductions.
As Beck’s unfair labor practice charge notes, she sent a letter to IBEW union chiefs and her employer in January 2022, exercising her right to resign her union membership and end any union dues deductions she was not required to pay in order to keep her job. Her letter also demanded a copy of any contract that gives IBEW officials the power to require dues payment as a condition of employment. When she received no response, she redelivered this letter by hand in March 2022.
IBEW Union Bosses Didn’t Show They Can Legally Take Dues from Worker, Take Money Anyway
Because Illinois lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, union officials can legally force workers in facilities under union control to pay some union fees just to stay employed. However, union bosses lose this legal privilege if there is no monopoly bargaining contract in effect between the union and management in the workplace. Under longstanding law, union officials must also gain consent from a worker before they can directly deduct compulsory fees from his or her paycheck.
In contrast, in the 27 Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary and the free choice of each individual worker.
Additionally, nonmember workers governed by a union monopoly bargaining contract have a right under the Foundation-won 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision to object to paying any union fees beyond what union officials claim goes toward core bargaining activities. This amount excludes money used for union political expenditures. Beck’s letter asked that all union deductions cease if IBEW bosses failed to provide a valid contract, and reduce her dues as per CWA v. Beck if they were able to provide such a contract.
To date, Beck’s charge says, the union has not responded to her written request, full union dues (including dues for politics) are still coming out of her paycheck, and she has not received a copy of a union contract.
Beck’s charge states that IBEW bosses are violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by “accepting fees from Charging Party’s paycheck without a consent or a collective bargaining agreement” and by “failing to respond in a timely manner to Charging Party’s January and March letters.” These actions violate Beck’s right under the NLRA to abstain from union activity, the charge says.
Illegal Forced-Dues-For-Politics Trickery Likely to Increase as Midterm Elections Near
Beck’s charge comes after union bosses spent near-record sums on politics during the 2020 election cycle. A report by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) released in 2021 revealed that union officials’ own filings show about $2 billion in political spending during the 2020 cycle, money primarily from dues-stocked union general treasuries, including dues from workers in non-Right to Work states who would be fired if they refused to financially support union activities. Moreover, other estimates strongly suggest that actual union spending on political and lobbying activities actually topped $12 billion in 2019-2020.
“IBEW union officials in Illinois, a non-Right to Work state, already have the legal power to demand that dissenting workers like Ms. Beck subsidize some union activities against their will. The fact they are taking money from her well in excess of the legal limit – months after she requested a stop – demonstrates they value power and influence far above workers’ individual rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As midterm elections near and union officials seek to defend their government-granted power to force workers to pay up or else be fired, workers should not hesitate to contact the Foundation to challenge forced-dues-for-politics situations like the one that Ms. Beck is facing.”