The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

IAM bosses charged arbitrary higher amount in violation of Foundation-won Beck precedent

IAM union bosses’ illegal fee scheme faced headwinds when Boeing technician Don Zueger defended his rights with Foundation legal aid and won.

SEATTLE, WA – Boeing technician Don Zueger didn’t want to sacrifice a cent from his paycheck to subsidize the activities of International Association of Machinists (IAM) union bosses who currently maintain monopoly bargaining power in his workplace. But, because he works in non-Right to Work Washington State, he can be forced to pay some union fees just to keep his job.

When Zueger found out union officials were calculating his forced fees amount based on financial data from nine other IAM affiliates not just data from his own district union he knew something was amiss.

Zueger sought free legal representation from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and filed a federal lawsuit against the IAM union for violating his rights under the 1988 Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Beck, the Court ruled that union officials cannot charge full union dues to objecting private sector workers who have abstained from formal union membership, and can only charge them “fees” which exclude expenses for things like union political activities.

IAM Bosses Use Baseless ‘Formula’ to Seize Excessive Forced Union Fees

Zueger’s lawsuit pointed out that IAM officials’ puzzling scheme imposed a dues amount on him that exceeds the limit that Beck established. Now he has won a settlement that requires union officials to decrease his dues payments and return money illegally taken from his wages.

Washington State’s lack of Right to Work protections mean that union officials can legally demand Zueger pay the reduced Beck amount as a condition of staying employed. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.

According to Zueger’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, he submitted a request to IAM union officials in February resigning his union membership and asking for his dues payments to be reduced as Beck requires.

Zueger’s lawsuit noted that IAM officials’ response to his Beck request claimed that, under IAM’s nationwide policy, the portion of union dues he must pay is based on averages of selected audits that in each case include nine other district IAM affiliates and nine other locals. Unsurprisingly, this policy resulted in IAM officials claiming Zueger is required to pay a greater sum than what would be required if union officials only used the audits for the district and local unions Zueger is forced to fund.

His lawsuit sought to force IAM union bosses to return all money demanded in violation of Beck and to properly reduce his future union payments in accordance with Beck.

Rather than attempt to defend their scheme to increase Zueger’s forced fee amount, IAM union chiefs quickly backed down and settled the case.

IAM union officials have now, as the settlement mandates, returned to Zueger the difference between the proper Beck dues amount and the illegal amount the union imposed on him. IAM bosses are also forbidden from demanding any money above the correctly calculated reduced Beck portion in the future, making the settlement a full vindication of Zueger’s Beck rights.

IAM Must Return Dues That Could Have Gone to Union Boss Political Agenda

Zueger’s settlement comes after union bosses spent near-record sums on politics during the 2020 election cycle, and as Foundation attorneys deal with a flurry of worker requests concerning illegal forced dues for politics. According to a report by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) released in 2021, public data on union expenses shows about $2 billion in political spending during the 2020 election cycle. Other estimates suggest the actual union spending on political and lobbying activities topped $12 billion during this cycle.

“It’s shameful that union officials continue to invent new ways to violate the decades-old Beck Supreme Court precedent and overcharge workers who clearly want nothing to do with union bosses and their agenda a big concern as union politicking heats up in advance of midterm elections,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “This scheme to artificially manipulate forced dues calculations is part of the IAM’s nationwide policy, and the Foundation stands ready to assist other workers around the country who are being subjected to this anti-Beck IAM scheme.”

Posted on Dec 22, 2022 in Newsletter Articles