Union Security Agreements

The NLRA permits, under certain conditions, a union and an employer to make a union-security agreement, which requires employees to make certain payments to the union to retain their jobs.​

A union-security agreement cannot require that applicants for employment be members of the union to be hired, and the agreement cannot require employees to actually join or maintain membership in the union to retain their jobs. Under a union-security agreement, individuals choosing to be dues-paying nonmembers may be required, as may employees who actually join the union, to pay full initiation fees and dues within a certain period of time (a grace period) after the collective bargaining contract takes effect, or after a new employee is hired.

However, if non-members object to the use of their payments for non-representational purposes, the most that can be required of them is that they would have to pay their share of the union’s costs relating to representational activities, such as collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment.

Recently the NLRB issued a decision holding that employers are normally obligated to continue deducting union dues from employees’ wages pursuant to a collective-bargaining agreement that establishes such an arrangement, even after the applicable collective bargaining agreement expires.1 This decision overturned the 50-year old Bethlehem Steel decision, which had held the exact opposite.2 In overruling Bethlehem Steel, the Board reasoned that because “dues checkoff is a matter related to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment within the meaning of the Act” it is “therefore a mandatory subject of bargaining” and the employer should not be permitted to “unilaterally cease honoring a dues-checkoff arrangement.”

1.WKYC-TV, Inc., 359 NLRB No. 30 (2012)

2.Bethlehem Steel, 136 NLRB 1500 (1962)​