NLRB Halts Effort to Undermine Right to Work

Union settlement suspends case regarding coercive unionism

Right To Work Michigan
Right to work protest in Michigan / AP
July 10, 2015

The National Labor Relations Board has dropped its reexamination of right to work laws and coercive unionism after the union at the center of its case settled.

The nation’s top labor arbiter submitted a request for legal briefs asking lawyers to weigh in on whether unions could charge non-members fees for grievance filings in April. The case came after a regional NLRB judge ruled that the Florida-based United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union Local 1192 violated the labor rights of a worker when it charged him fees to file a grievance claim.

The call to briefs prompted speculation from legal experts that the NLRB sought to undermine right to work laws in 25 states that prohibit companies from forcing workers to pay unions fees as a condition of employment.

"The General Counsel [former union lawyer Richard Griffin] and the Respondent filed a joint motion withdrawing exceptions to the decision of the administrative law judge," the NLRB said in a Tuesday release.

The Steelworkers union did not return request for comment regarding the settlement.

"The [union] asks the Board to adopt a rule allowing unions to charge nonmembers a fee for grievance processing," the agency said in its April announcement. "If such fees were held lawful in principle, what factors should the Board consider to determine whether the amount of such a fee violates [existing labor law]? What actions could a union lawfully take to ensure payment?"

Patrick Semmens, spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, said the call for briefs was cause for alarm. Generally calls for briefs mean the agency is looking to reverse longstanding legal standards.

"The NLRB tipped its hand the second it called for briefing in this case and showed that it wants to throw out over half a century of precedent to grant union bosses even more power over individual workers," Semmens said.

Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, said the agency’s behavior followed a pattern of seeking to overturn longstanding case law accepted by federal courts to advance union interests. He said the NLRB’s efforts jeopardized economic growth and worker freedom.

"Big labor and the NLRB has sought to overreach into workplaces and tried to undermine established state right to work laws for a long time which is harmful to job creation and to workers," he said. "The NLRB’s call for briefs, specifically in regard to the cost of grievance complaints are absurd and even though they are dropping them for now, they should reconsider ever bringing them again. Right to work states benefit from job growth, economic stimulus, and lower unemployment."

The suspension of the case did little to quell fears from Semmens and other labor watchdogs that the NLRB would continue to fight for unions.

"The fact that this settlement should their attempts to undermine the 25 state right to work laws, doesn’t mean they won’t try again very soon," Semmens said. "Given the bias of the Obama labor board to date it wouldn’t even be that shocking if the board concocted some justification moving forward in this case despite the settlement."

Published under: Right to Work , Unions