Charges: Union officials imposing so-called ‘window period’ restriction to forbid civil engineering grad student from cutting off dues for politics

Boston, MA (April 26, 2024) – Following five Jewish students filing federal religious discrimination charges against the union, the MIT Graduate Student Union (GSU-UE) is now facing new federal unfair labor practice charges from civil engineering graduate student Katerina Boukin. Boukin’s charges, filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, maintain that union officials are unlawfully seizing money from her research compensation to support union political activities she abhors.

Boukin seeks to enforce her rights under the 1988 Right to Work Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. The Court held in Beck that union officials cannot force those under their control to pay dues or fees for union expenses not directly related to collective bargaining, such as political expenses. Nonmembers who exercise their Beck rights are entitled to an independent audit of the union’s finances and a breakdown of how union officials spend forced contributions.

Beck rights are only relevant in non-Right to Work jurisdictions like Massachusetts, where union officials have the legal power to compel the payment of some union fees in a unionized environment. Because of controversial rulings by the Obama and Biden NLRBs, graduate students at private educational institutions like MIT are treated as “employees” who can be subjected to forced union representation and mandatory payments. In jurisdictions that have Right to Work protections, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.

“GSU union officials are going above and beyond what is legal and are forcing me to pay for their political activities, including their opposition to Israel and promotion of Leninist-Marxist global revolution, that I find deeply offensive,” commented Boukin. “The GSU’s political agenda has nothing to do with my research as a graduate student at MIT, or the relationships I have with my professors and the university administration, yet outrageously they demand I fund their radical ideology.”

Union Still Seizing Dues for Politics Under Guise of ‘Window Period’ Restriction

According to Boukin’s charges, she and other graduate students resigned their memberships in the GSU union, revoked their dues “checkoff” authorizations, and objected under Beck to paying anything going toward GSU’s “political and non-representational agenda and expenditures.”

Despite these requests, the charges note, union bosses have “refused to process those Beck objections, refused to immediately reduce the amount of dues and fees collected from Charging Party’s and other graduate students’ [compensation], refused to stop the dues checkoff, and refused to provide Charging Party” with an independent audit explaining the union’s expenses and reduced fee calculation.

Instead, a GSU vice president told Boukin that she had missed an annual “window period” in which to exercise her Beck rights and that her objections would not be considered until November 2024. “In fact, the UE union has adopted an unlawfully restrictive Beck objection policy, precisely to diminish and destroy [the students’]…rights,” says the charge.

The charges note that the union’s unlawful dues scheme restrains and coerces the graduate students from exercising their right under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to refrain from union activity. MIT is also charged for its role in enforcing the union scheme and continuing to collect dues.

Previously, another MIT graduate student, Will Sussman, filed NLRB charges against the UE union for violating his rights under Beck. Sussman filed the charges on his own but later obtained free legal representation from the National Right to Work Foundation.

GSU Also Faces Religious Discrimination Charges, May Be Violating Past Beck-Related Settlement

Sussman’s case concluded because UE settled with the NLRB. As part of that settlement, GSU union officials are required to “notify [all graduate students] of your rights under…Communications Workers v. Beck” and email notices informing students of those rights and post a notice for 60 days. Despite still being within the 60-day notice-posting period, as Boukin’s case shows, GSU officials appear to be violating the spirit if not the letter of that settlement.

Boukin’s unfair labor practice charges come as federal discrimination charges are pending at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for five Jewish graduate students who requested religious accommodations to paying money to the GSU union. Among other things, these students oppose the union’s advocacy for the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement.

“Freedom of association is apparently a foreign concept to GSU union officials, who are flouting layers upon layers of federal law to compel students to fund their radical political agenda,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, both this case and Foundation attorneys’ case for the five Jewish MIT graduate students show on a deeper level that the choice to provide support to a union should rest solely with workers, who may have sincere religious, political, or other objections to funding any or all of a union’s activities.”

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 about 200 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on Apr 26, 2024 in News Releases