Union Loses Dues Case

U.S. Dist. Judge T.S. Ellis, E. Dist. of Va., ruled Nov. 22 that the Int’l Ass’n of Machinists may not require nonmembers who object to agency fees being used for nonrepresentational purposes to file objections every year.  The case was a class action covering IAM-represented airline and railroad workers nationwide.

Granting summary judgment to the class of approximately 1,039 nonmembers, Ellis decided that the union’s annual objection requirement, and its refusal to accept continuing objections, imposed an undue burden on nonmembers’ First Amendment rights and was unjustified. Under union security clauses in IAM collective bargaining agreements with airline and railway carriers, each nonmember must pay the union agency fees equal to the dues paid by members to cover the nonmember’s pro rata share of collective bargaining costs. However, nonmembers may object to paying for nonrepresentational expenditures such as political activities.

Ellis rejected the union’s arguments that the annual objection rule was rational because the union determines annually the percentage of expenditures for representational activities and that nonmembers should be required periodically to reconsider whether to object. Ellis said, “This justification does not support the denial of a continuing objection because it is based not on any legitimate need of IAM, but rather on a supposed benefit to objecting nonmembers.” [BNA 11/29/00 (citing Lutz v. IAM)]