Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Today, the NLRB released its decision (3-1) in WKYC-TV, in which reversed the long-standing rule Bethelem Steel that agreements for dues checkoffs will not continue after the contract expires. The new rule will not apply to pending cases. The essence of the majority decision is that because dues checkoffs are mandatory subjects of bargaining, the normal Katz rule for such topics--that they must continue while a new contract is being negotiated--should apply unless there is a reason for an exception; the majority found that there wasn't. In making this conclusion, the majority distinguished clauses that involved the waiver of rights, like no-strike clauses. The majority also criticized Bethelem Steel for treating dues checkoff provisions the same as union security clauses (in part because of its reading of Sections 8(a)(3) and 302(c)).
Member Hayes dissented, arguing that there was no evidence that the old rule wasn't working. Further, he disagreed with the majority's statutory interpretation. He also stressed that limiting dues checkoffs to an active collective-bargaining agreement was more consistent with the concept of voluntary unionism.
This last point of Member Hayes is important and may be what prompted this case. Although I don't know, I wonder whether the Board was at least partially motivated by the Supreme Court's recent dues cases and their more anti-union view of voluntarism (although there had been earlier moves to reverse this precedent, most recently in the split Hacienda case in 2010). Perhaps this case will be part of a larger answer that the Board will try to make. We'll have to see.