NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Most Employees Don't Know Their Rights

July 1, 1997

The Supreme Court's 1988 Beck decision established two important protections for workers compelled to pay union dues.

  • The right to financial information on how the union spends its funds.
  • The right to withhold payment of that portion of union dues spent on the union's political, social and ideological goals.

But since the Court's 1988 decision, Beck enforcement has been nearly nonexistent.

  • Two attempts in Congress to codify employee rights in federal law have failed.
  • A 1992 executive order by President Bush requiring signs at federal contractors' work sites informing employees of their rights was rescinded by President Clinton within a month of assuming office as "distinctly anti-union."

Thus it is not surprising that, according to an April 1996 Luntz Research survey, 78 percent of union members are not aware of their right to receive a dues refund under Beck.

But recent surveys show that employees would likely exercise their Beck rights if they knew them.

  • One out of five union members said that they would definitely request a refund in lieu of participating in the AFL-CIO's $35 million political campaign during the 1996 election.
  • By 84 percent to 9 percent , union members said union leaders should be required to disclose "exactly how they spend" union dues.
  • By 53 percent to 32 percent margin, union households believe labor unions should not be allowed to use members' dues to support political causes and issues of interest to the labor movement.

Source: Robert Hunter, "Compulsory Union Dues In Michigan," Mackinac Center Report, 1997, Mackinac Center For Public Policy, 119 Ashman Street, P.O. Box 568, Midland, Michigan 48640, (517) 631-0900.


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