NLRB Dings Union for Photo ID Requirements

Union tried to require photo ID to withdraw membership

June 19, 2015

A top federal labor arbiter ruled against a Michigan union for requiring photo identification to withdraw membership as the state became right to work.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which monitors union elections and activity, issued a complaint against International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 (IBEW) for hindering the ability of workers to withdraw from the union.

"Respondent (IBEW) has refused to recognize and accept the Charging Party’s revocation of his dues deduction authorizations and has continued to seek dues from the Charging Party’s pay," the complaint says. "By the conduct described above … Respondent has been restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights."

Local 58 represents about 4,500 workers in the Detroit metro region and collects about $9.7 million per year in dues, according to federal labor filings. The union adopted new procedures for revoking membership in October 2014, a year after Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in the nation.

The policy required workers to show up in person at union headquarters and present photo identification in order to terminate membership.

"Any member that desires to opt out of membership or dues deduction must do so in person at the Union Hall of IBEW Local 58 and show picture identification with a corresponding written request specifically indicating the intent of the member," the policy says.

The charges stem from a complaint filed by Ryan Greene, a Paramount Industries employee, in April.

"These and related acts and omissions violate the [National Labor Relations Act], and threaten, restrain, coerce and discriminate against all of the employees in all bargaining units represented by Respondent Union in the exercise of their section 7 rights to refrain from collective activity," the complaint said.

The NLRB upheld these charges and ordered the union to stop docking Greene’s paychecks for dues, as well as pay back any money that Greene and other workers paid along with interest.

"It is prayed that Respondent be ordered to: Cease and desist from engaging in the conduct … restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of rights," the order says. The NLRB will also require IBEW to "inform the unit, in writing that it is rescinding its unlawful restrictions" and "recognize as non-members any employee whose resignation was denied since October 7, 2014, pursuant to the unlawful restrictions."

Greene received legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Patrick Semmons, a spokesman for the group, said that the agency recognized that the union was attempting to use subtle intimidation to maintain its control of workers.

"No hypocrisy is too great to get in the way of Big Labor’s forced-dues greed. When it comes to voter ID laws union bosses claim it violates voters’ rights, yet when the very workers these union bosses claim to ‘represent’ want to exercise their right to leave the union, union officials will throw up any barrier they can including requiring a photo ID," he said.

IBEW did not return a request for comment.

Published under: Big Labor , NLRB