Volume 72, Issue #1 | Spring 2012
The CWA News | Notice Regarding Union Security Agreements and Agency Fee Objections
Volume 72, Issue #1 | Spring 2012
As a general matter, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement containing a Union security clause are required, as a condition of employment, to pay an agency fee equal to normal Union dues (and, where applicable, initiation fees). While the wording of these clauses is not perfectly uniform, none requires more than the payment of this agency fee to retain employment.
The Communications Workers of America policy on agency fee objections is the Union’s means of meeting its legal obligations to employees covered by Union security clauses and of effectuating those employees’ legal rights as stated in the applicable decisions of the United States Supreme Court (including Beck v. CWA) and the companion lower court and labor agency decisions. Under the CWA policy, employees who are not members of the Union, but who pay agency fees pursuant to a Union security clause, may request a reduction in that fee based on their objection to certain kinds of Union expenditures.
The policy provides an objection period each year during May, followed by a reduction in the objector’s fee for the twelve months beginning with July and running through June of the following year.
Briefly stated, CWA’s objection policy works as follows:
1. The agency fee payable by objectors will be based on the Union’s expenditures for those activities or projects “germane to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment” within the meaning of applicable United States Supreme Court decisions.
Among these “chargeable” expenditures are those going for negotiations with employers, enforcing collective bargaining agreements, informal meetings with employer representatives, discussion of work-related issues with employees, handling employees’ work-related problems through the grievance procedure, administrative agencies, or informal meetings, and Union administration. In the past, approximately 70-75% of the International Union’s expenditures have gone for such activities. The percentages of Local Union expenditures on “chargeable” activities have generally been higher. Among the expenditures treated as “nonchargeable,” which objectors will not be required to support, are those going for community service (including participating in charitable events), legislative activity, cost of affiliation with non-CWA organizations, support of political candidates, participating in political events, recruitment of members to the Union, and members-only benefits (including members-only social events). In the past, approximately 25-30% of the International Union’s expenditures have gone for such “nonchargeable” expenditures. The percentages of Local Union expenditures on “nonchargeable” activities have generally been lower.
2. Objectors will be given a full explanation of the basis for the reduced fee charged to them. That explanation will include a more detailed list of the categories of expenditures deemed to be “chargeable” and those deemed to be “nonchargeable,” and the independent certified public accountants’ report showing the Union’s expenditures on which the fee is based. In addition to any other avenue of relief available under the law, objectors will have the option of challenging the Union’s calculation of the reduced fee before an impartial arbitrator appointed by the American Arbitration Association, and a portion of the objector’s fee shall be held in escrow while he or she pursues that challenge. Details on the method of making such a challenge and the rights accorded to those who do so will be provided to objectors along with the explanation of the fee calculation.
3. Objections for the period of July through June must be sent during May. Objections will be honored for one year unless the objection specifically states that it is continuing in nature. Continuing objections will be honored for as long as the agency fee payer remains in the bargaining unit. Agency fee payers who are new to the bargaining unit, or who are returning to the bargaining unit, may object within thirty days of receiving this notice. In addition, employees who resign Union membership may object within thirty days of becoming an agency fee payer. Employees filing these objections in either circumstance should so state that circumstance in their letter of objection. New bargaining unit members are to receive this notice prior to any demand being made upon them for the payment of agency fees. If, however, for any reason a new unit member begins paying agency fees prior to the receipt of this notice, he or she may object retroactively to the commencement of such payments and for the duration of the current annual objection period.
The letter of objection should include name, address, social security number, CWA Local number, and employer. Objections must be sent to the Agency Fee Administrator, CWA, 501 Third Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001-2797.