Union bosses ignored his attempts to exercise his rights, now must refund all illegally taken money
Portland, OR (December 7, 2020) – Portland-area ABC cameraman Jeremy Brown has just won a decision in his case charging National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 51 union officials with demanding and seizing illegal dues from him and for ignoring his multiple attempts to exercise his right to refrain from union membership and not pay for union political activities. He is represented at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
A December 3 ruling by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that NABET union bosses have, since April 2019, breached federal labor law by violating Brown’s rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck stipulates that union bosses can only compel employees, like Brown, who have objected to formal union membership to pay for specific, limited costs directly related to the union’s bargaining functions. An employee cannot be required to pay for the union’s political, lobbying and other non-bargaining expenditures. Beck also requires union officials to provide such employees an independent audit of the union’s financial breakdown and the process by which they calculate the reduced fee amount, among other disclosures.
According to the ALJ’s decision, Brown resumed work with ABC in 2016 after periods of intermittent hire since 1999, at no point joining the union. A new president, Carrie Biggs-Adams, took over the NABET union in the workplace in late 2018 and sent Brown a series of letters in early 2019 which claimed that, as a condition of employment, he had to pay nearly $10,000 dollars in initiation fees and “back agency dues.”
Because Brown works primarily in states without Right to Work protections, which make union membership and financial support voluntary, he can be required to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment.
Brown, who according to the ALJ’s decision was unaware until 2019 that he was under the NABET union’s bargaining power, emailed Biggs-Adams in April 2019 asking for “clarification” regarding the fee demands and also exercised his Beck rights by objecting “to the collection and expenditure by the union of a fee for any purpose other than” certain bargaining activities. The decision also recounts that Brown informed Biggs-Adams that he filled out an application for formal NABET membership (which included an authorization for full dues deductions from his paycheck), but did so under duress, believing that he would be fired if he did not agree to pay dues.
Several follow-ups by Brown were not acknowledged by Biggs-Adams. According to the ALJ’s ruling, she “believed Local 51 had no obligation to do so because Beck objections” are handled only by the union’s national headquarters under NABET rules. Biggs-Adams never told Brown that his Beck objection was misdirected nor provided any of the disclosures Beck requires under prior Board decisions, and the union never reduced his fee amount in accordance with Beck.
The ALJ’s decision holds that the NABET Local 51 union violated Brown’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) through its officials’ omissions and the failure to reduce his dues. The ALJ orders that NABET Local 51 provide Brown with “a good faith determination of the reduced dues and fees objectors must pay,” “reimburse Brown for all dues and fees collected” beyond what is required by Beck with interest, and post notices informing the employees in Brown’s workplace of the decision.
“NABET union bosses flat out ignored multiple attempts by Mr. Brown to exercise his Beck rights, all the while stuffing their coffers with well over the limit of cash that they could legally demand from him,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While this decision vindicated Mr. Brown’s legal rights, it also demonstrates why every American worker deserves the protection of a Right to Work law to shield them from union boss threats to pay up or be fired.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.