NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Court Takes Up Union Dues Issues

June 4, 1998

The Paycheck Protection Initiative failed in California, but efforts to hold unions accountable are proceeding in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue involved concerns whether a union can mislead a worker into joining it and paying full dues.

  • Four years ago, after actress Naomi Marquez won a bit part in a television series, the Screen Actors Guild demanded she join their union and pay more than $500 -- even before she stepped before the camera.
  • When Marquez said she couldn't afford to join, her scene was shot using another actress.
  • While SAG writes collective-bargaining agreements into contracts, demanding that workers be union members to get or keep a job, the courts have stated no one may be forced legally to become a union member as a condition of employment -- a right many workers are unaware of.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled workers can only be forced to pay a reduced fee for proven collective-bargaining costs.

Supporters predict a victory by Marquez would force union officials to expunge all "mandatory member" clauses, currently in nearly 70 percent of private-sector bargaining agreements. A favorable ruling would void union contracts containing these requirements and make them unenforceable until workers' rights were clearly explained to them.

Experts estimate that if all eligible employees learned of their rights and only 25 percent exercised those rights, unions would lose nearly $665 million in annual revenue.

Source: Reed Larson (National Right to Work Foundation), "Union Dues Battle Carries On In Court," Investors' Business Daily, June 4, 1998.


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