National Labor Relations Board to Prosecute Union for Trying to Extract Forced Union Dues From Camera Man

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 recently filed a complaint in the case of an Oregon-based ABC/ESPN cameraman, who charged National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 51 union officials with making demands for thousands of dollars in union fees coming from him in clear violation of his rights. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys provided legal aid to the aforementioned cameraman.

Jeremy Brown, the cameraman in question, argued in his charge filed against NABET leaders that the union violated his rights under the Right to Work Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Under Beck, workers who opt to not join a union can only be compelled to pay the portion of dues that are relevant to the union’s bargaining functions. It also mandates union bosses to let their employees know about the reduced amount of union dues they can pay if they reject formal union membership and to carry out an independent audit of the union’s expenses.

Due to the fact that Brown works predominately in states that have no Right to Work safeguards for employees, he can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. That said, union officials can only make workers pay the portion allowed under Beck and must comply with Beck procedures before confiscating the aforementioned forced dues from workers who do not belong to a union.

According to the complaint, Brown started working as a “freelance daily hire” for ABC/ESPN around 2016. Back in February 2019, Brown received a letter from NABET officials which informed him he was in a monopoly bargaining unit under the union’s control, and that he had to pay an initiation fee of roughly $6,431. In April 2019, union bosses sent Brown another letter alleging that Brown owed $3,429.60 in unpaid union dues from December 2016 to January 2019. This letter threatened Brown with not being “eligible for future employment” if he opted to not pay.

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On April 4, Brown emailed the president of the NABET local where he expressed his grievances against full unions dues and demand that his Beck rights be respected. From April 2019 to June 2019, Brown continued his correspondence with union officials on his request. However, he did not receive a response.

NLRB Region 19’s complaint declared that NABET officials violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by not respecting Brown’s Beck rights. This included failing to give Brown “a good faith determination of the sum amount of reduced fees and dues” that union nonmembers can pay, failing to give a “detailed apportionment” of the expenses the union incurred, and not letting Brown know of the proper way to file his Beck objection after making multiple attempts.

To the remedy the situation, the complaint petitioned for an order mandating NABET bosses “to reimburse Charging Party for non-representational dues and fees collected since April 2019” and take only the portion of fees permitted in accordance to Beck from his paycheck in the future. September 29, 2020 was the date the NLRB set for the hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

“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,” remarked 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.”

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