On August 27, 2010, the NLRB found that a union violated its duty of fair representation by requiring non-member dues objectors to restate their position every year despite their express desire to have the objection continue from year-to-year.
Under federal labor law, unions and employers may enter into agreements requiring employees represented by a union to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Communication Workers of America v. Beck that unions may charge members and non-members fees related to the union's collective bargaining and contract administration activities, but cannot require non-members to pay fees unrelated to collective bargaining (fees related to the union's political or other non-representational activities).
Non-members may object to paying any portion of dues that is not used for collective bargaining purposes. Unions must provide notice of this option and calculate the share of dues money used for collective bargaining purposes only.
In this case, an employee of a Florida-based company, represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, objected to paying full dues. In 2003, he informed the union in writing that he wished his objection to continue indefinitely. The union responded that all dues objections had to be restated annually. When the employee failed to do so, he was charged the full monthly dues for 2004.
The issue presented to the Board was whether the union's requirement that the members' objections had to be restated each year was a breach of the union's duty of fair representation because it was "arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith." Chairman Liebman and Member Becker (both Democratic appointees) found that the annual renewal requirement was arbitrary, but not discriminatory or in bad faith. In a separate opinion, Members Schaumber and Hayes (Republican appointees) agreed that the rule was arbitrary, but they would also find it discriminatory. In dissent, Member Pearce found that the union had presented reasonable justifications for its requirement, making the practice valid. (International Association of Mechanists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO; and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, Local Lodge 2777 [L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Case 15-CB-5169, Decided August 27, 2010].)