Dues Check-off Obligation No Longer Expires With Collective Bargaining

WKYC-TV, Gannet Co., Inc., 359 NLRB No. 30 (2012)

Reversing 50 years of settled precedent, the NLRB recently ruled that a “dues check-off” provision in a union contract continues to require an employer to deduct union dues from employees’ paychecks even after the union contract expires. This ruling shows the Board’s continuing path of “pro-union” decisions and significantly impacts union/employer negotiation leverage in favor of a union’s position at the bargaining table.

In those states that do not have right-to-work laws, employees can be required to become members of, and pay dues to, a labor union in order to keep their jobs. Leveraging off the ability to maintain a “closed shop,” unions typically seek two terms in collective bargaining agreements with employers in those states. The first, referred to euphemistically as a “union security” provision rather than “forced membership,” reflects the closed-shop nature of the workplace, and requires that employees become members of the union (usually by paying a hefty initiation fee and agreeing to pay monthly dues) within 30 days of hire, or else the employer must terminate their employment. The second term is commonly referred to as a “dues check-off” provision, and requires that the employer deduct union dues from employee paychecks and remit the deductions directly to the union, effectively functioning as the union’s collection agent and thereby relieving the union of the expense and burden of having to seek dues payments directly from the employees. Since an NLRB decision 50 years ago, the law has been settled that an employer need not continue to remit union dues to a union following the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement containing a dues check-off provision. In this case, the NLRB discarded a half-century of settled law, holding that employers now must continue to deduct union dues from employee paychecks and send the deducted funds to the union, even after the contract requiring it to do so has expired.