California Local Loses Union Dues Suit

Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 166 in Riverside, Cal., failed to provide employees covered by a union security clause with adequate information for them to decide whether to decline union membership and object to the amount of agency fees charged to nonmembers, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 22. Overruling a Mar. 1999 Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. decision, the federal appeals court found inadequate the local’s provision to objectors of a one-page list of 19 general categories of expenditures identifying the amount and percentage of each category chargeable to nonmembers. The court also ruled that Local 166 must explain how the portion of money paid to its affiliates that was charged to nonmembers was spent.

Additionally, the court decided that the local must inform new employees and nonmembers who pay full dues about the precise lower amount they would be entitled to pay if they exercised their rights under Communications Workers of America v. Beck and objected to paying for expenditures unrelated to representational activities.

Overruling NLRB on this point, the appeals court found that this result was required by its earlier decision in Abrams v. Communications Workers of America, which held that unions must inform potential objectors about the percentage of expenditures chargeable to objecting nonmembers.

Section 8(a)(3) of the Nat’l Labor Relations Act permits unions to negotiate union security clauses allowing them to collect dues from all members of the bargaining unit, including those who decline to become union members. But the Supreme Court in Beck held that employees are not required to pay for union activities not germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.  The Supreme Court held in Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 v. Hudson that potential objectors must be given “sufficient information to gauge the propriety of the union’s fee.” In Abrams, the D.C. Circuit extended the same requirement to unions representing private sector employees and specifically ruled that new employees were entitled to the same notice.

Robert Penrod, Nadine Penrod and Clement Wierzbicki, employees of DynCorp Support Services Operations, decided to resign their Local 166 membership and exercise their Beck rights. A fourth employee, John Burnham, informed the union shortly after he was hired by DynCorp that he did not want to join the union.  The four, represented by the Nat’l Right to Work Legal Defense Fdn, filed unfair labor practice charges against Local 166 for failure to inform them about their Beck rights. Settling the charges, the union agreed to provide to new employees and nonmembers a written notice describing Beck rights and how to exercise them.

Local 166 then sent a letter to the nonmembers who objected to paying for nonrepresentational activities, informing them that they owed 93.6% of the regular dues charged to union members and describing procedures for
challenging the calculation.  Finding the information inadequate, the four employees renewed their unfair labor practice charges. However, NLRB decided that the local had complied with its duty of fair representation. [BNA 2/25/00]