Panel upholds National Labor Relations Board ruling in decade-long case that union officials can never charge nonmembers for union lobbying expenses
Boston, MA (September 15, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Warwick, RI-based nurse Jeanette Geary has just prevailed again in a legal battle waged for over a decade by United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union bosses seeking to force her to fund union lobbying as a condition of keeping her job.
Geary, who worked as a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge in 2009 against the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. She filed the charges after UNAP officials failed to provide her evidence of a legally required independent audit of its breakdown of expenditures. She also challenged the union’s forcing of her and other employees to pay for union lobbying activities in violation of the National Right to Work Foundation-won 1988 U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision.
In Beck, the High Court ruled that private sector workers in states without Right to Work protections could only be forced to pay union dues for union activities “directly germane” to the union’s bargaining functions, which excludes political activity like lobbying. In another Foundation-won case, Hudson, the Court held that union officials must provide an audited financial breakdown of how forced union dues are being spent.
The NLRB had issued a negative decision in 2012, but that decision was invalidated by the Supreme Court’s holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning that the Board lacked a valid quorum because of three unconstitutional “recess appointments” then-President Obama had made. Seven years later, Geary’s case was the only remaining case invalidated by Noel Canning still pending without a decision by the NLRB.
In January 2019, Foundation staff attorneys filed a mandamus petition at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking a court order that the NLRB promptly decide Geary’s case. The Appeals Court then ordered the NLRB to respond to that petition by March 4, 2019, which caused the NLRB to issue its decision on March 1, 2019, just ahead of the deadline.
The NLRB ruled 3-1 in that decision that union officials violate workers’ rights by forcing nonmembers to fund union lobbying activities. It also ruled that union officials must provide independent verification that the union expenses they charge to nonmembers have been audited. Unwilling to stop forcing workers to fund lobbying activities, UNAP union bosses asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn this ruling.
Oral arguments were held before the First Circuit in March 2020, with veteran Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman arguing for Geary. One of the judges on the First Circuit panel which heard the case is retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
“In a long-overdue victory, after over a decade of litigation Ms. Geary has successfully affirmed her right not to fund union boss lobbying, a protection guaranteed by the Foundation-won Beck Supreme Court decision,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “No worker should be forced to pay for union political activity, including lobbying. But, the fact that Ms. Geary had to endure this drawn out legal fight shows why a National Right to Work Law should be passed allowing every worker the individual right to decide for themselves whether to subsidize any union boss activities, political or not.”
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.