Complaint charges NABET-CWA union bosses failed to provide mandated breakdown of fees, while demanding cameraman pay up or be fired
Portland, OR (April 15, 2020) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle has issued a complaint in the case of an Oregon-based ABC/ESPN cameraman, who in July 2019 charged National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 51 union officials with demanding thousands of dollars in union fees from him in violation of his rights. The cameraman filed his charges with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The cameraman, Jeremy Brown, asserted in his charge against NABET bosses that it had infringed his rights under the Right to Work Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck mandates that private sector workers who choose to refrain from formal union membership can only be forced to pay the portion of dues directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions. It also requires union bosses to inform employees of the reduced amount of union fees they can pay if they object to formal union membership and to provide an independent audit of the union’s expenses.
Because Brown works mostly in states that have not enacted Right to Work protections for employees, he can be required to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment. However, union officials can only require workers to pay the portion of dues Beck allows and must follow Beck procedures before seizing such forced fees from workers who are not union members.
The complaint notes that Brown began working as a “freelance daily hire” for ABC/ESPN in about 2016. In February 2019, he received a letter from NABET officials informing him he was in a monopoly bargaining unit under the union’s control, and that he must pay an initiation fee of approximately $6,431. In April of the same year, union bosses sent him another letter alleging that Brown also owed $3,429.60 in unpaid union dues from December 2016 to January 2019. This letter threatened that Brown would not be “eligible for future employment” if he refused to pay.
On April 4, Brown sent an email to the president of the NABET local objecting to full union dues and demanding his Beck rights. Throughout April 2019 and into June 2019, Brown continued to follow up with union officials on his request, but to date has received no response.
NLRB Region 19’s complaint declares that NABET officials have violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by denying Brown his Beck rights. This includes failing to provide Brown “with a good faith determination of the sum amount of reduced fees and dues” that union nonmembers can pay, failing to provide a “detailed apportionment” of the union’s expenses, and not informing Brown of the proper way to submit his Beck objection after his multiple attempts to do so.
As a remedy, the complaint seeks an order requiring NABET bosses “to reimburse Charging Party for non-representational dues and fees collected since April 2019” and take only the portion of fees allowed by Beck from his paycheck in the future. The NLRB has scheduled a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Brown’s case for September 29, 2020.
“NABET bosses threatened Jeremy Brown’s livelihood just so they could stuff thousands of his hard-earned dollars into their pockets in clear violation of his rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although we are encouraged that NLRB Region 19 has taken steps to prosecute the union for this blatant malfeasance, cases like this demonstrate why every state must enact Right to Work protections for their workers so none are forced to subsidize union activities as a condition of employment.”
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.