CWPB partner Linda Harfst won a ground-breaking labor law victory before the National Labor Relations Board on August 27, 2015. In Lincoln Lutheran of Racine and Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin, SEIU-HCWI, Case 30-CA-111099, the NLRB ended more than 50 years of precedent unfavorable to unions. This precedent, established in Bethlehem Steel, 136 NLRB 1500 (1962), held that an employer's obligation to continue union dues payroll deductions ceases following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement that created the arrangement.
Lincoln Lutheran of Racine now stands for the proposition that employers must honor dues-check-off arrangements even after expiration of the labor contract until the next collective bargaining agreement is reached. Doing so serves the National Labor Relations Act's goal of promoting collective bargaining. It is consistent with longstanding Board precedent forbidding post-contract unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, unless the bargaining representatives have prior notice and a meaningful opportunity to bargain about the changes.
The Board has now made clear that if management takes unilateral action to end contractually-agreed dues deduction, that refusal amounts to a refusal to negotiate and it illegally obstructs collective bargaining. Harfst explained, "For over fifty years, management has unilaterally used cessation of agreed payroll deductions as a means of economic pressure to try to force unions into concessions at the bargaining table. Now we know that union dues deduction agreements are a mandatory subject of bargaining that must be honored just as wages, hours and working conditions must be honored when a contract has ended and bargaining for the next contract is underway."
Harfst represented SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, the charging party in the Lincoln Lutheran case, before the Board. SEIU Healthcare WI had filed charges against the Employer when it unilaterally ceased agreed payroll dues deduction during bargaining over the successor in March 2013.