Forcing Workers to Pay Full Union Dues Violated the NLRA


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that a union’s demand for payment of full union dues from employees who had chosen a more limited union membership violated those employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Section 7 of the NLRA protects workers’ rights to choose whether or not to participate in union activity. However, an exception to this right provides that a collective bargaining agreement can require union membership as a condition of employment in certain circumstances, but that employees may choose between full and “core” membership, with decreased fees for the latter. In Tamosiunas v. NLRB, the union sent letters to the core members, demanding payment of the full union membership fees. The union also asked the employer to garnish the full fees from the core members’ paychecks.

The employees filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, which found that the union’s demand for full fees and garnishment did not restrain their Section 7 rights. The court, however, found the NLRB’s ruling “legally unsupportable,” because the union’s actions would reasonably tend to “coerce or restrain” the employee’s rights to not pay full union membership dues.