While Missouri still lacks Right to Work protections for employees, IBEW union officials hiked forced fees without providing financial disclosure required by law
St. Louis, MO (March 21, 2018) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Missouri power plant worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 53 union for failing to provide an adequate breakdown of how the union spends workers’ forced union dues.
In November 2017, IBEW Local 53 union officials informed James Feagins that, beginning in 2018, he would be required to pay union fees of approximately 95 percent of formal membership dues, a substantial increase over the average of approximately 50 percent of union dues he was previously required to pay.
Because a union-backed ballot petition has blocked Missouri’s Right to Work law from going into effect, workers like Feagins currently can be fired for refusing to hand over part of their paycheck to a union they choose not to join. In the 27 states with Right to Work laws in effect, union membership and financial support is strictly voluntary.
Feagins had previously attempted to exercise his rights under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedent Communications Workers of America v. Beck to opt out of union membership. Under Beck, workers in states without Right to Work protections cannot be compelled to pay the part of union dues used for a union’s political and member-only activities.
Beck also requires union bosses to provide workers with an independently-verified audit breaking down chargeable and non-chargeable expenses, but IBEW Local 53 union officials only provided Feagins with an unaudited statement. Moreover, IBEW Local 53’s statement of expenses included so-called “per capita taxes” sent to affiliate unions without disclosure regarding how the affiliates spend that money.
The charges allege that Local 53 union officials further violated Feagins’ Beck rights by illegally charging him for certain advertising, overhead, and organizing expenses. Further, Feagins asked union officials to provide him with a copy of the monopoly bargaining agreement, but they refused to do so in violation of federal labor law.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director in St. Louis will now investigate the charges.
“Union bosses add insult to injury by threatening workers to pay fees or else be fired, and then keeping them in the dark about where the money is going,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case underscores the need for Right to Work protections in Missouri to make union membership and dues payments completely voluntary.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.