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March 9, 2010

Union can require non-members to contribute to union’s legal fees

Union can require non-members to contribute to union’s legal fees
Locke et al. v. Karass, State Controller, et al. 200 U. S. 321

The Supreme Court decided that a public employees' union may require individuals in the negotiating unit who are not union members to pay a share of the legal fees incurred in a national lawsuit.*

The Maine State Employees Union contended that individuals not electing to join the union still must pay “agency shop fees”** to the union if they are covered by collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union and its costs in participating in a national lawsuit were properly included as an element of the local’s agency shop fee.

The nonmembers argued that requiring them to share in the costs the local incurred in litigating an issue in a “national” lawsuit was similar to charging them for the costs incurred by the local in its political activities and lobbying efforts. Unions are required to repay its nonmembers the prorata cost of political and lobbying activities that are included in the agency shop fee charged its non-members. The Supreme Court decided that the local’s national litigation costs was not such a forbidden charge.

In the words of the court, “… the national litigation expenses before us are both appropriately related to collective bargaining and reciprocal. Consequently, consistent with our precedent, those expenses are chargeable.”

* In contrast, in Kidwell v Transportation Communications Union, 946 F.2d. 283, the Circuit Court held that a union member employed in an agency shop does not have any right to object to his or her union's using part of a member's dues for activities unrelated to collective negotiations.

**
Chapter 338 of the Laws of 2008 made the agency shop fee provisions for public employees setout in the Taylor Law [Civil Service Law Article 14] permanent for State employees and employees of political subdivisions of the State. Prior the enactment of Chapter 338, statutory authorizations for such fees were subject to a "sunset" provision and had to be reenacted periodically.

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