The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling to preserve the flow of union dues income to unions during protracted labor negotiations. The ruling is that an employer must continue to deduct union dues from employee paychecks despite the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement that required the payments. 

Attached here is WKYC-TV, Inc. There the employer ceased deducting and remitting dues to the union after expiration of its labor agreement that required such “check-off.”  This action was seemingly non-controversial, because, since 1962, employers have had the option to stop dues check-off after expiration of the contract. Specifically, in Bethlehem Steel, the Board held that both union security clauses (requiring employees to remain dues-paying members of the union to maintain employment) and dues check-off clauses became “automatically” inoperative upon contract expiration. In WKYC-TV, the Board reversed Bethlehem Steel on dues check-off.

Under the new ruling, an employer may legally stop deducting dues in only three instances. The first is if employees individually revoke their previously signed dues deduction authorizations. The second is if the employer and the union reach a valid impasse in negotiations over extension or elimination of the check-off provision. The third is if the employer can prove the union’s “clear and unmistakable” waiver of its right to negotiate over the continuation of check-off. All three are unlikely factually and/or difficult to establish legally. 

WKYC-TV eliminates a longstanding, logical, low-risk economic option previously available to employers engaged in protracted union contract negotiations and reduces pressure on the union to reach a settlement because its “dues flow” continues. 

Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment Group will be conducting a series of CLE Programs entitled “Employment Law 2013 – Reed Smith Boot Camp” in locations across the country. Kicking off “Boot Camp” will be an event in our Philadelphia Office on January 31, 2013. If you would like to attend, click here and indicate your location.