On March 1,, 2019, in United Nurses & Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital), the National Labor Relations Board set a new standard for non-member objectors often referred to as “Beck Objectors.”[1]  The Board held that unions can no longer compel objectors to pay a union’s lobbying fees.

The Board based its decision on Communications Workers of America v. Beck and Ellis v. Railway Clerks.[2]  In Beck, the Supreme Court held that an objecting employee could not be compelled to pay beyond “the expenses necessary to perform the duties of an exclusive representative.”[3]  In Ellis, the court referred to this as “the statutory functions” of the union.[4]  The Board held that Ellis limits “unions’ use of exacted funds to direct representative functions,” and that “lobbying activity is not part of the union’s statutory collective-bargaining obligation and, therefore, is nonchargeable.”[5]  The Board further argued that lobbying is a political expense and therefore prohibited under Machinists v. Street, which held that non-members could not be compelled to pay for political causes to which they object.[6]

In Kent, the Board also ruled that a union must provide independent verification to objecting non-members and show that its compilation of chargeable and nonchargeable expenses has been appropriately audited. Failure to do so constitutes a violation of the union’s duty of fair representation.[7]

[1] https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/nlrb-sets-standards-affecting-beck-objectors-union-lobbying-expenses-are-0 United Nurses and Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital), 367 NLRB No. 94 (March 1, 2019)The Board decision can be found here. https://drive.google.com/file/d/115ZbQKmyur9QOyE95vb2Etba9DiUxAVN/view?usp=sharing

[2] Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988), Ellis, 466 U.S. 435 (1984).

[3] Beck, at 762.

[4] Ellis, at 447.

[5] Decision Page 6.

[6] Id. Machinists v. Street, 367 U.S. 740,767,768 (1961). The court held that unions do not have the power to use an employee’s “exacted funds to support political causes which he opposes.”

[7] Decision Page 2. The Board held this violates §8(b)(1)(A) of the NLRA.