In the landmark decision, Communication Workers v Beck, 37 the Court held that for workers covered by the NLRAwhich includes most private sector workersthe "financial core" obligations of membership are limited to union activities "germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment." 38 The Court held that the union could not collect dues from objecting employees for the costs of organizing employees of other employers, lobbying for labor legislation, or participating in social, charitable, or political events.
The Court in Beck recognized that the NLRA and RLA are essentially equivalent. 39 Consequently, the Court believed that the two sections of the law permitting union shop agreements were enacted for the same purpose and that they should be interpreted in a parallel manner. Therefore, the NLRA should also be interpreted to prohibit extracting and expending funds collected from nonmembers on activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment.
In the Beck case, about 79% of the dues normally collected could not be legitimately charged to objecting nonmembers. The district court in Lehnert (the Ferris State University case) found that 90% of dues were being spent in furtherance of nonchargeable activities and applied to public sector unionism the principles embodied in Beck. 40
Where a union security clause exists, the expenditure of dues over the objection of a nonmember-unit employee violates the duty of fair representation that the union owes to the dissenting employee. Activities such as organizing employees of other employers, lobbying for labor legislation, or participating in social and political events cannot be charged to the employee exercising rights pursuant to Supreme Court precedent.