Policy: Labor

NLRB rules workers must pay year's worth of dues to decertified union

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,New York,NLRB,SEIU

If you are a worker trying to sever your relationship with a union, you have to make extra certain you didn't make even the tiniest error when you do it. That's what the National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday when it ruled that nine workers who decertified their union in 2012 still had to pay it another year's worth of membership dues because they sent in some of the paperwork too early.

The case involved nine workers for a Brooklyn condo complex who voted unanimously on Sept. 26, 2012, to get rid of United Workers of America Local 621 as their bargaining representative. The following week, the workers individually sent the union letters announcing that they "elected to terminate any and all such membership obligations" with it.

However the NLRB did not officially recognize the decertification vote until Oct. 11, 10 days after the union received the workers' letters. On the basis of that, Local 621 claimed it never received proper termination letters. The union was able to get the workers' employer to continue to deduct membership dues from their paychecks for another full year after they had voted to get rid of it.

The workers filed a complaint, and an administrative NLRB judge ruled in their favor in July, finding that the letters should not have been invalidated just for being a few days early.

The NLRB overturned that ruling Tuesday: "Contrary to the judge, we find that premature revocations of dues check-off authorizations do not become valid upon certification of deauthorization election results."

So, if you are a worker who is trying to exit your union, you have been warned by the federal government: dot every "i," cross every "t" and double- and triple-check everything you do. It may cost you a lot if you don't.

The NLRB case was titled United Workers of America Local 621 and Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ. The SEIU union was representing the workers, presumably because they joined it after leaving UWA, though the documents do not explicitly state this. Neither union could be reached for comment.

For more on the difficulties workers often run into when they try to leave a union, see my earlier columns on the subject.

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