Enforcement Options For Beck Objectors

Beck rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court and the administrative agencies of government are not self-enforcing. In the absence of a union’s voluntary compliance with Beck standards, it may be necessary for an employee to seek relief through the courts, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), or the NLRB. This is the least desirable way to pursue employee rights but it may be the only way to secure them if unions do not comply voluntarily with the law.

The best way to secure worker Beck rights is by voluntary cooperation between the worker and his or her union. Workers who wish to know how their dues money is being spent may request that information in writing from the union. (See Appendix A for a sample letter.) Workers who wish to receive a refund of dues money spent on union political, social, or ideological causes may inform their union in writing that they are exercising their rights as a Beck objector. (See Appendix B for a sample letter.)

If a union fails to provide employees with the required Beck information, including the procedures for filing objections, or if an employee challenges the agency fee calculation, he or she may commence a lawsuit in federal court for breach of the union’s duty of fair representation. In addition to a private lawsuit, the aggrieved employee may file an unfair labor practice with the NLRB, which has offices located in both Detroit and Grand Rapids, or, if the employee works in the public sector, charges may be filed with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission which has offices in Lansing and Detroit. Although procedures in these two agencies differ somewhat, they both require that the charge be filed within six months of the alleged unfair labor practice.

The NLRB has an information officer on call throughout operating hours, and the Board has slowly improved the accuracy and availability of information regarding Beck rights. The NLRB also has free written materials that offer a general outline of all worker rights under the NLRA. MERC currently has no policy that standardizes information and no written materials to inform workers of their right to become nonmembers of a union. According to one MERC official, the information given in response to an information request regarding union withdrawal and dues rebate may vary based upon who a person speaks to at MERC. (Addresses and telephone numbers of these agencies are included in Appendix C.)