Legal Developments at the National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been slow to enforce and protect union nonmembers’ Beck rights. After sitting on hundreds of employee unfair labor practice charges since the Supreme Court’s 1988 Beck decision, the NLRB in 1995 issued its lead case decision in interpreting the Supreme Court’s eight-year-old ruling.

In California Saw and Knife Works, 41  the Board held that if a nonmember employee chooses to file a Beck objection, the employee must be apprised by the union of the following information:

The employee’s right to be a union nonmember;

The percentage of the reduction in fees for objecting members;

The basis for the union’s calculation;

The right to challenge these figures. 42 

The purpose for providing the objectors with this information is to allow an employee to decide whether there is any reason to mount a challenge to the union’s dues reduction calculations. 43  Also, when a union seeks to require an objecting employee to pay dues under a union security clause, reasonable procedures must be available for filing challenges to the amounts charged. Any procedures not shown to be arbitrary, discriminatory, or in bad faith will satisfy the union’s obligations under Beck.

The Board in interpreting the NLRA has refused to extend all of the procedural safeguards required under the Hudson ruling, which is limited to public employees. The cases and law are developing, and employee rights may be expanded based upon the decisions of higher reviewing courts or internal interpretations by the Board itself. The filing of additional employee cases will aid the Board in examining various factual situations to further clarify the law. 44