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(The Center Square) – A Michigan AT&T employee is challenging the legality of the automatic paycheck deduction of union dues, an action the company continued even after the expiration of its contract with the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

The case is currently before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington.

National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF) attorneys filed a brief with the NLRB on Wednesday on behalf of Veronica Rolader. NRWF argues Rolader was within her legal rights to object to the dues deduction, which the attorneys assert is a right guaranteed under federal labor law.

If successful, the NRWF-Rolader case would overturn the NLRB’s Frito-Lay precedent, which allows unions to implement a brief “window period” for employees to opt out of dues deductions, even during a contract hiatus.  

The employee, Veronica Rolader, asserts that AT&T and CWA officials violated the law by continuing union dues deductions over her objections even after the union contract had expired and union officials had no legal right to those dues.

Rolader’s case seeks to overturn Frito-Lay, a 1979 NLRB precedent that allows union bosses to restrict workers’ right to end union dues deduction to a brief “window period’ even during a contract hiatus, even though federal labor law explicitly recognizes this right.

Rolader authorized AT&T to deduct CWA union dues from her paycheck in January 2000. Two months after AT&T’s contract with CWA expired in April 2018, Rolader attempted to resign her union membership and cease dues deductions.

AT&T rejected Rolader’s request, stating it was “untimely.” A second attempt by Rolader in December 2018 was also rejected for the same reason. According to the NRWF, “Neither response apprised Rolader of the period in which union officials or AT&T would consider her request valid.”

According to a NRWF statement: “[U]nion officials have no legal power to coerce dues from individual workers when there is no contract in effect.”

The NRWF also notes both of Rolader’s attempts were submitted before CWA and AT&T finalized a new bargaining contract in August 2019. Furthermore, asserts NRWF, both of Rolader’s requests occurred after Michigan had become a Right to Work state in March 2013.

“It’s outrageous that the NLRB’s 40-year-old decision in Frito-Lay continues to grant union bosses the privilege to keep siphoning dues out of the pockets of dissenting workers, even when the underlying ‘justification’ for the dues payments no longer exists,” NRWF President Mark Mix said in a press statement. “The NLRB should overturn Frito-Lay and ensure that no worker can be trapped into funding a union against their will when there is not even a valid contract in effect between a union and employer.”

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.