- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A worker’s right to not contribute to a union’s political activities took another hit yesterday following a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board. In a scathing dissent, NLRB member Peter Schaumber correctly called the ruling a “patch-job,” comparing it to waiting two decades to get your car back from the shop only to find that one tire had been fixed.

Exaggeration? Hardly. Seventeen years ago David and Sherry Pirlott, employees at Schreiber Foods in Green Bay, Wis., asked the NLRB to determine whether an employee can be forced to subsidize union organizing activities. A year earlier, in 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Communications Workers v. Beck that workers could not lawfully be forced to pay for any union activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Yet the NLRB sat on the case. It wasn’t until 2000 that the NLRB made any sort of determination on the issue when they ruled in a separate case that to force employees to pay for non-bargaining activities unions had to demonstrate that organizing activities somehow strengthened workers’ collective bargaining hand. Needless to say, this was not what the Supreme Court had held in Beck.

The ruling was appealed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and would have made it to a Supreme Court review had not the NLRB stepped in and promised the court that it would re-evaluate the ruling in the Schreiber Foods case. But again, the NLRB sat on the case. It wasn’t until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the NLRB to issue a ruling on Schreiber Foods — only the third time in the NLRB’s history it has been forced to do so — that anything at all was done.

The ruling that came down is ostensibly in favor of the Pirlotts, as the NLRB did not find that the union’s organizing activities strengthened employees’ collective bargaining position. What the ruling didn’t do, however, was overturn or revise its unconstitutional edict from 2000, which is a blatant dereliction of the NLRB’s promise to the Supreme Court that it would revise its earlier decision.

In the words of Mr. Schaumber, who labeled the majority’s decision “indefensible,” “what the Board fails to do … is to address the broader and recurring question, one specifically raised and briefed by the parties, namely, whether such expenses are ever properly chargeable” to employees who object. Further, he wrote, the majority’s decision is “utterly inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent.”

The right-to-work lawyers tell us that they have grounds to appeal to the Supreme Court. They should do this, as should the court uphold its previous ruling on the issue.

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