Labor Pains

Though some have started to issue their year-end and presidential-term-end reviews of federal labor law, some recent decisions turn the year on its head—not to mention at least one major chapter yet to be written.

Just last week the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), ruling on Kent Hospital, decided that lobbying expenses could be considered chargeable expenses if they are “germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment.” This means that even if a union member opts out of permitting his or her dues to be used for politics (thanks to the Beck decision) certain lobbying would be still be funded. The problem is that the definition is so broad that a labor union could decide that almost all of its lobbying is germane for these purposes. The NLRB also ruled that Beck objectors are no longer entitled to a detailed audit showing that their dues were not spent on politics.

The Board also went back on half-a-century of labor law in reversing the Bethlehem Steel decision. The NLRB determined that even when a union is on strike or its contract with an employer has expired, the employer must continue to deduct dues and pay them to the union.


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