NLRB Decides that Union Dues Checkoff Survives Expiration of Collective Bargaining Agreement

Monday, January 7, 2013

In WKYC-TV, Inc., 359 NLRB No. 30 (December 12, 2012), the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) overruled the 50 year old decision in Bethlehem Steel, 136 NLRB 1500 (1962), which provided that an employer's obligation to check off union dues from employees' wages terminates upon the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement that established the arrangement.  In this most recent decision, the Board determined that there had not been an explanation of the rule in earlier decisions. After a discussion of the law, the Board determined that the dues checkoff provisions would now survive the expiration of an agreement and can only be altered through negotiations.   

In 1962, the Board ruled in Bethlehem Steel that an employer’s dues checkoff obligation terminates upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.  In WKYC-TV, a three-member majority of the NLRB overruled Bethlehem Steel finding that the Board’s holding in that case is “unsupportable because it is based on questionable reasoning, is inconsistent with established policy generally condemning unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment, is contradicted by both the plain language and legislative history of the only statutory provision addressing dues checkoff, and finds no justification in the policies of the Act.”  

The Board went on to discuss whether to apply the rule retroactively to cases that are pending.  The Board determined that it would decide all pending cases involving cessation of the contractually established dues checkoff arrangement under Bethlehem Steel.

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