Board policy since 1976 has prohibited unions from charging nonmembers a fee for grievance representation. Consistent with many pro-union changes occurring at the National Labor Relations Board, the Board has threatened to allow unions to charge nonmembers a fee for processing their grievances if the union contract does not contain a valid union-security clause.

Recently, an employee working in a right-to-work state, who was not part of the Steelworkers union that represented employees at the Company, asked to file a grievance. The union told him it would only process his grievance if he paid a “fair share representation fee.” The ALJ found the union’s policy requiring payment to process grievances for nonmembers to be unlawful regardless of whether the fee is the equivalent of dues paid by members.

The Board is reconsidering its long-standing rule that in the absence of a valid union security clause, a union may not charge a fee for processing grievances. The Board will also consider if such fees were lawful – which I’m guessing it will find – and what factors the Board should examine to determine whether the amount of the fee violates the National Labor Relations Act.