Michigan unions face an annual potential payout of over $10 million to workers exercising their Beck rights.
Union leaders may view the exercise of Beck rights as their worst nightmare.
This need not be the case. Unions currently have a workplace monopoly which enables them
to collect dues through compulsory union security agreements. A voluntary membership and
dues system would avoid Beck problems completely and return unions to the true
service organizations they were originally envisioned to be.
The current union approach of suppressing information and confusing members regarding Beck
rights risks alienating rank-and-file members and ruining union credibility. In the short
run, there is little doubt that unions will experience a loss of revenue, a potential loss
of members, and significant expenses in bookkeeping procedures and litigation expenses
necessary to resolve Beck complaints.
The 1994 Current Population Survey (CPS) 53
determined that there are 960,600 active union members employed in the state of Michigan.
According to the Luntz survey findings that only 22% of union members know of their Beck
rights, it can be presumed that around 493,000 Michigan private sector union members do
not know of their reduced dues rights under the Beck decision, and some 257,000
Michigan public sector employees are likewise unaware of their Constitutional rights under
similar U.S. Supreme Court cases. Assuming the Luntz Research findings are accurate, a
tremendous 750,000 Michigan union members or agency fee payers are not aware of their Beck
rights, and approximately 384,000 Michigan union members would be very likely to exercise
those rights if they were made aware of them. 54 The unions face the
possibility that they may lose these many members which would reduce their income and
Union leaders seem frightened by the potential loss of their coercive power to extract
mandatory dues money for partisan or political purposes. Union officials have downplayed
the impact of Beck and have predicted that the number of nonmember employees
stepping forward to object will be negligible. Union attorneys optimistically predict that
80% to 90% of collected dues can be shown to be used for collective bargaining purposes. 55
The potential Beck cost to unions is difficult to predict because of the
uncertainty of the variables involved. Assuming only one-third the number of union members
predicted by Luntz would pursue a refund, and using a union claim that only 20% of union
dues may be refundable, Michigan unions face an annual potential payout of over $10
million to workers exercising their Beck rights. 56 The actual
payout could be much higher.
If union leaders were truly confident that they spend most dues-generated revenue in
accordance with Beck, there would be no reason to suppress information regarding
these rights. It is disingenuous for unions to argue on the one hand that Beck
rights are meaningless while fighting Beck objectors every step of the way. It is
evident that more widespread knowledge of Beck rights will result in more workers
seeking refunds and future reduced dues, and that is probably the heart of the
Pursuing a "hear no evil, see no evil" strategy will hurt the union movement
in the long run. The secret cannot be bottled up forever. Beck is the law of the
land, and it is here to stay. To the extent that unions avoid or delay compliance with Beck,
they stand to alienate their rank-and-file who will eventually learn of the unions
efforts to keep employees in the dark. As employees become more informed of Beck
rights, unions risk losing credibility for the current strategy of silence, suppression,
Unions have control over this situation. A better course of action for the unions would
be to recognize Becks implications and adopt a policy that no union dues will
be used for political activities without the express written consent of members and
nonmembers alike. Unions should provide an annual detailed financial accounting to each
member, outlining the preceding years expenditures. Those unions that refuse to
adopt these policies risk future actions from the legislature, the NLRB, and the courts,
all of which could set and regulate internal union policies.