Labor Law–Unions–The National Labor Relations Board’s Role in Examining the Use of Union Dues Collected Pursuant to a Union Security Agreement

Under section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a majority union and an employer are permitted to enter into a so-called “union security agreement,” which requires all employees in the bargaining unit to tender to the union as a condition of continued employment “the periodic dues and the initiation fees uniformly required” by the union of its members. As long as an employee-whether or not he is a member of the union-is willing to pay the proper initiation fees and the “periodic dues.., uniformly required,” the union commits an unfair labor practice if it threatens to request or in fact obtains his discharge. Several cases have arisen in which a union has threatened to have an employee discharged for nonpayment of its monthly fees, part of which were to be refunded if the employee attended monthly union meetings. In such a situation, the issue presented is whether levies which are to be refunded for attending union meetings properly come with the meaning of “periodic dues… uniformly required.” In two decisions concerning this issue, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided in 1962 and 1963 that the refund element precluded the levies from being “uniformly required,” and therefore that they were not collectible as a condition of employment. However, in a recent case, Local 171, Pulp Workers (Boise Cascade Corp.), the NLRB rejected this analysis.