Paycheck Protection Is a Positive Answer

"Paycheck protection" refers to those labor reform efforts initiated at the state level which are designed to ensure maximum protection of workers' rights under Beck. Paycheck protection—coupled with rigorous enforcement of the Beck decision—guarantees to all workers forced to pay union dues their right to make their own decisions about contributing to their union's political, social, and charitable causes.

Paycheck protection avoids the practical problems present in the Beck decision while carrying out its promise. Generally, paycheck protection is simple and straightforward and puts all affected persons on clear notice as to what is required.

However, paycheck protection is not a cure-all for those workers who are trapped in compulsory union arrangements. The law grants privileges to unions that subordinate the individual rights of workers to the "collective good" of the union membership. One of these privileges, which paycheck protection would balance out, is the union security agreement.

Under union security agreements, employers agree to terminate any worker who refuses to pay union dues or fees. Paycheck protection does not end this dues obligation, but it does effectively free workers to withhold payment of dues money that is not spent on legitimate worker representation.

Nor does paycheck protection necessarily resolve all dues disputes between unions and employees. Workers who decide to withhold the percentage of their dues that the union admits are unrelated to collective bargaining may decide to challenge the union figures for accuracy.

U. S. Supreme Court and other judicial decisions have established important rights in this area.

First, nonunion members must be given adequate information about the basis for any representation fee the union charges them.9 Workers who wish to object to their fee assessments must be able to first determine if the assessments are objectionable. The framework paycheck protection language on page 12 provides the basis for the exercise of these rights.

Second, the procedure for a worker's union fee challenge requires that 100 percent of the disputed fee be placed into an interest-bearing escrow account, unless the initial disclosure includes a CPA's verification of expenses. If a CPA verifies the fee schedule, the union may escrow only that portion of expenditures that a worker could reasonably challenge.10

Finally, the procedure must provide for a "reasonably prompt decision by an impartial decision maker" to confirm the nature of the challenged union expenditures and to guarantee that the dues have been used for permissible purposes.11

The U. S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that forced-union-fee payers who dispute their assessed fees need not first exhaust a union-controlled arbitration procedure before taking their disputes to a judicial forum.12 The Court held that there is no legal basis for compelling an objector who does not agree to arbitration to submit a dispute to that process, and that a federal court could serve as the "impartial decision maker," provided that the litigation was expeditiously pursued.

Thus, Beck-type rights continue to be necessary to assist workers to test the validity of the unions' dues calculations.

Under paycheck protection proposals—which may come via law or ballot referendum—unions that compel dues and fees from workers must secure from each a prior, voluntary, written authorization to use any dues for non-collective bargaining activities. Workers are permitted to automatically shield their Beck dues up-front when dues are collected, instead of having to jump through hoops to recover those dues after they have been extracted.

Paycheck protection treats all workers equally, union members and nonmembers alike, in their right to decide whether or not to support the union's nonbargaining agenda without sacrificing their right to vote on critical workplace economic decisions. Votes to ratify a collective agreement or authorize a union strike affect union "nonmembers" as well; they should not be deprived of their right to decide matters which directly impact their opportunities for workplace improvements.

Paycheck protection is not "anti-union" but rather a more balanced pro-worker approach:

  • All workers are notified of their option to contribute or withhold dues money;

  • All employees continue to be represented by the union;

  • All workers are compelled to pay for union representation services from which they benefit; and

  • The union is able to continue spending on matters it deems important—but only with dues money consciously and voluntarily contributed by its dues payers.

Paycheck protection is fair to unions because they will continue to be able to solicit money for their nonbargaining agenda, using the power of persuasion. What would change is the current presumption that unions have the right to make those decisions for workers—a presumption which clashes with a union's need to respect the personal freedom, democratic governance, and voluntary cooperation of the people it claims to represent.