Labor Pains

At the current rate, it will be hard to find a legal precedent of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that that still stands after the slew of reversals in 2012. Although we’ve already covered some of these, they bear repeating. In December alone, the Board issued several decisions that reversed significant precedent of the Board itself and of federal courts, always resulting in an advantage for organized labor.

The most significant change was the half-century old precedent of Bethlehem Steel being reversed in a case called WKYC-TV. The 1962 decision was clear that when a contract between a union and an employer expired, the employer was no longer obligated to deduct union dues from the employees’ paychecks, per their dues check-off. But the 3-1 decision reversed that for “compelling statutory and policy reasons.” The now-departed sole Republican member of the Board dissented, arguing that a 50-plus-year-old precedent should not be reversed with no evidence that it has, in any way, affected collective bargaining or the settling of disputes.

The watershed Supreme Court case, Communications Workers of America v. Beck, was dealt a blow by the Board’s Kent Hospital decision. The NLRB determined that even if a union member wants to opt out of political spending by the union (be a Beck objector) lobbying may still be a chargeable expense if it is germane to other chargeable expenses, including collective bargaining and grievances.

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