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Unions unable to charge lobbying costs to dues protesters, rules NLRB

In another setback to unions, the NLRB held that unions cannot charge lobbying costs to dues protesters.

In the NLRB’s terminology, a dues protestor is called a “Beck objector,” after the Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Communication Workers v. Beck. There, the Supreme Court held that workers in a unionized workplace have the right to refuse to pay full union dues; instead, a so-called Beck objector can insist on paying only the share of dues that funds negotiating, administering and fighting grievances under his/her own collective bargaining agreement. Unions, therefore, set a fee rate that is lower than full dues, and must provide Beck objectors the calculations that show they are charging only Beck fees.

In this case, the Board held, first, that unions must provide those calculations to Beck objectors in the form a verified audit letter from the union’s auditor.

Next the Board turned to the union’s lobbying expenses. In this case, the union spent money to lobby state legislatures in support of legislative activity that it felt behooved its bargaining unit members, not just at this contract, but for all its members. The Board held that none of the lobbying efforts could be charged to Beck objectors.

Consistent with these cases, we conclude that lobbying expenses are not chargeable to Beck objectors under the NLRA.  We accordingly find that the Union violated its duty of fair representation by charging nonmember objectors for expenses incurred as to any of the lobbying activities at issue.

The case deals a heavy blow to unions, which frequently undertake significant lobbying efforts on behalf of their bargaining unit members.

Source: United Nurses and Allied Professionals, 367 NLRB No. 94 (3/1/19).

Colorado legislative employment law update 2017

The Colorado legislature has closed out its 2017 session. This year’s crop of new employment laws was relatively mild. Highlights included the following:

  • HB17-1214 enhances the Colorado Office of Economic Development’s ability to facilitate employee ownership of existing business. As owners of many business find themselves wanting to retire from their businesses,  the legislature hopes COED will now be better able to help employees to take over ownership.
  • SB17-189 provides employers who need to do background checks involving fingerprints more options than the law enforcement agencies previously permitted.
  • HB17-1021 provides that the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment can release to the public information about employers who have violated state wage laws, but continues to prohibit CDOLE from releasing a company’s trade secrets. Before disclosing information about a company, CDOLE will now provide the employer 20-day notice, allowing it time to object if it believes any information to be disclosed is a trade secret.
  • HB17-1269 expands the reach of preexisting law, which (like the federal National Labor Relations Act) prohibited employers from in turn prohibiting their workers from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions. This bill expands that state law beyond the NLRA to cover even employers who are not subject to the NLRA.
  • HB17-1119 enhances the penalties employers face if they fail to obtain workers compensation coverage for their employees.
  • HB17-1229 fleshes out Colorado’s workers compensation law in regard to mental impairment. It confirms that mental impairment is usually not a recoverable injury, especially when it is the consequence of aspects of the employment relationship, including discharge and discipline. However, workers compensation benefits may be available the mental impairment suffered as a result of a work-related traumatic event.

Failed legislation included the following:

  • HB17-1305 would have brought ban-the-box to Colorado. Ban-the-box laws are being introduced across the country as a way to prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history.
  • HB17-1001 would brought back parental leave for children’s academic events (so-called parent-teacher conference leave). In 2009, Colorado passed such a law, but it expired in September 2015 and hasn’t since been revived.