(The Center Square) – A Kaiser Permanente employee from Kalihi, Hawaii, filed a federal complaint in December with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) claiming union officials ignored two resignation requests and continued to unlawfully charge her for union political activity.
Just a few months later, UNITE HERE Local 5 union bosses backed down and Honolulu Kaiser Permanente employee Nina Chiu won her case.
Local 5 represents more than 12,000 hospitality, health care, and food service workers in Hawaii, according to UNITE HERE’s website.
Because Hawaii lacks right-to-work protections for its private sector employees, Chiu can still be forced to pay a reduced portion of union fees as a condition of keeping her job. However, the National Right to Work Foundation filed charges on her behalf, and UNITE HERE officials were forced to comply with the Supreme Court ruling in CWA v. Beck and reduced her dues.
In the Foundation-won Beck case in 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) mandates that union officials cannot force private sector workers who decline formal union membership to pay union dues as a condition of keeping a job for anything unrelated to the union’s bargaining functions, including a union’s political expenditures.
Beck set precedent by requiring unions to provide nonmember employees with an independent audit of the union’s breakdown of expenditures, their process for determining the reduced union fee amount, and information on how to challenge the union’s determination.
Chiu, who is not a union member, can still be forced to pay a reduced amount of union fees as a condition of employment. Under right-to-work laws, which Hawaii does not have, union membership and all union financial support are voluntary.
According to the complaint, Chiu submitted two letters exercising her Beck rights and never received a financial breakdown from the union although she was still being charged the equivalent of full dues. After filing the federal complaint, union officials reduced her dues payments and mailed her a copy of the “Union’s Auditor’s Report, Union’s Statement of Expenses, and procedure for challenging the Union’s dues chargeability determination.”
“While we are pleased that Ms. Chiu has successfully defended her rights under Beck to abstain from paying for union politics, employees should not have to file federal charges to get union bosses to respect their rights,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement. “That Ms. Chiu and other employees across the islands can be forced to pay anything to union bosses they have actively chosen to dissociate from again demonstrates why Aloha State legislators need to pass a right-to-work law, so union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.”