Last month, President Barack Obama’s radical National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sent a clear signal of its intent to overturn more than six decades of legal precedents regarding the workplace grievance privileges union bosses wield under federal law.
In unionized workplaces, a claim by any front-line employee that he or she has been harmed by a misapplication or misinterpretation of a company policy cannot be addressed in any way that is inconsistent with the contract between the company and Big Labor bosses exercising their monopoly-bargaining powers.
And federal courts and the NLRB alike have long recognized that union bosses effectively own the process through which such grievances are handled.
For this reason, both the courts and the NLRB have up to now consistently barred Big Labor from charging union nonmembers to get their grievances processed when union members can have their grievances processed for free.
But on April 15, the Obama NLRB issued a “call for briefs” strongly indicating it plans to carve out a loophole in federal labor policy authorizing the collection of forced fees for grievances, but effectively only from union nonmembers living in one of the 25 Right to Work states, where forced dues and fees are prohibited by law.
Potentially, Big Labor will be entitled to sue workers who refuse to pay for grievance “services” that they are effectively forced to accept, since, if they opt to take money out of their own pockets to pay a nonunion lawyer to argue their grievance, any settlement they reach can be junked by union officials because it doesn’t conform to the monopolistic union contract!
Until now, even dyed-in-the-wool champions of compulsory unionism on the NLRB have refused to acquiesce to Big Labor wishes that they interpret the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to allow forced fees for grievances from union nonmembers.
Take, for example, John T. Fanning, who served on the NLRB from 1957 to 1981, and as chairman from 1977 to 1981. Fanning was an unabashed proponent of monopolistic unionism who worked part-time as a lawyer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union after retiring from the board.
However, roughly 40 years ago, when International Association of Machinists (IAM) union bosses tried to convince the NLRB to rubber-stamp their scheme to foist forced fees for grievances on union nonmembers in Right to Work Virginia, Fanning, along with fellow board member Howard Jenkins, refused to go along. (See the link below to read the NLRB’s April 1976 decision and order in IAM Local 697 v. Ronnie G. Carroll.)
Fanning and Jenkins refused to “reinterpret” Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act to allow forced fees for grievance processing in Right to Work states. And their decision emphasized how selectively imposing such forced fees only on union nonmembers, as IAM kingpins had tried to do, would violate Section 8(b)(1)(A) of the NLRA:
In conclusion, we find Respondent, by charging only nonmembers for grievance representation, has discriminated against nonmembers. We further find that a grievance procedure is vital to [monopolistic] collective bargaining . . . . To discriminate against nonmembers by charging them for what is due them by right restrains them in the exercise of their statutory rights.
Judging by their records, neither Fanning nor Jenkins was ideologically opposed to workers being forced to furnish financial support to a union they would never voluntarily join. But they had enough integrity to recognize that expanding compulsory unionism to all 50 states by mere bureaucratic fiat would be wrong.
Unfortunately, the eagerness of current Chairman Mark Pearce and his fellow radicals on the Obama NLRB to overturn what one of their agency’s administrative law judges referred to only last year as the “well settled and unambiguous precedent” of Machinists, Local 697 indicates that they lack such integrity. Therefore, to preserve Right to Work protections in the 25 states that have established them by statute or by constitutional amendment, freedom-loving citizens will almost surely have to seek assistance from Congress and the federal court system.