A technician at Boeing’s Auburn, WA, facility has won a settlement requiring International Association of Machinists (IAM) union officials to return dues money seized from his wages in violation of his rights under Supreme Court precedent. He received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
In May, Boeing technician Don Zueger filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against the IAM union, maintaining the union breached his rights guaranteed by the Foundation-won 1988 CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Beck, the Court ruled that union officials cannot lawfully demand full union dues from objecting private sector workers who abstain from formal union membership.
Under Beck, union officials can only charge union nonmembers “fees” which exclude expenses for things like union political activities. Washington State’s lack of Right to Work protections for its private sector workers means that union officials can compel workers to pay certain fees as a condition of keeping their jobs.
In contrast, in the 27 states that have Right to Work laws on the books, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary. This eliminates the opportunity for union officials to “cook the books” when determining the amount that nonmembers can be required to pay under threat of termination.
IAM Dues Scheme Used Audits from Other Union Locals to Impose Illegal Dues Rate on Worker
According to Zueger’s lawsuit, in February he resigned his union membership and asked IAM union officials to decrease his dues payments as the Supreme Court’s Beck precedent requires.
IAM officials responded by claiming that, under the union’s nationwide policy, nonmember forced fee amounts come from averages of selected audits that in each case include nine other local and district IAM affiliates. This means that IAM officials did not calculate Zueger’s compulsory union fee rate using the actual percentages determined in the audits of the local and district IAM affiliates that Zueger must subsidize as a condition of employment.
Unsurprisingly, this policy resulted in Zueger’s forced dues amount being higher than it would have been had union officials followed Beck and only used the audits for the district and local affiliates Zueger is forced to fund.
Zueger’s lawsuit sought to force IAM union bosses to return all money taken in violation of Beck and to properly reduce his future union payments in accordance with Beck.
Settlement Requires IAM Union to Return Illegally Seized Dues
Rather than attempt to defend their scheme which increased Zueger’s forced fee amount, IAM union chiefs quickly backed down and settled the case. IAM union officials have now, as the settlement mandates, returned to Zueger the difference between the required forced fees amount and the illegal amount the union imposed on him.
Going forward, the settlement forbids IAM union officials from demanding from Zueger any money in excess of the actual reduced Beck portion. The settlement vindicates Zueger’s Beck rights, though these are limited compared to the full protections of a Right to Work law.
“Mr. Zueger’s quick victory in this case likely indicates IAM union bosses had no confidence that their ‘averaging’ dues scheme would survive any serious judicial inspection,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It’s shameful that union officials continue to search for ways to violate the decades-old Beck Supreme Court precedent and overcharge workers who clearly want nothing to do with the union and its agenda – a big concern as union politicking heats up in advance of midterm elections.”
“This scheme to artificially manipulate forced fees calculations is part of the IAM’s nationwide policy, so almost certainly other workers in Seattle and across the country are also being subjected to the same illegal calculations,” added Mix. “The Foundation has helped workers exercise and defend their Beck rights for years, and workers should reach out to us for free legal aid if they encounter illegal dues demands.”
Workers can request free legal aid from the Foundation by calling 800-336-3600 or through the Foundation’s website at https://www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid/.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.