FLRA pushes ahead with union dues rule

Feds rally outside a Washington, D.C. courthouse where a union lawsuit is being tried. Photo credit: Chase Gunter

The Federal Labor Relations Authority is advancing a policy that would allow unionized federal workers to suspend paying dues to their bargaining agents at any time, overturning the current practice of letting employees elect to withhold dues once a year.

"The FLRA is seeking to assure employees the fullest freedom in the exercise of their rights under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute … in matters directly affecting their pay," the agency stated in a document published in the Federal Register on March 19. "Therefore, the FLRA proposes to define when an employee may initiate the revocation of a previously authorized assignment of amounts deducted from the pay of the employee for the payment of regular and periodic dues allotted to an exclusive representative."

Federal unions say the rule is designed to weaken organized labor.

"The decision to move forward with this proposed rule is just another in a series of activist steps the FLRA has taken to advance this administration's goal of busting unions and making it even harder for rank-and-file federal employees to speak up, defend their rights, and serve the American people," Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement.

"The Authority's proposed rule is contrary to both settled law and Congressional intent that clearly establish that dues allotments are only revocable at yearly intervals."

FLRA member Ernest DuBester, originally nominated by President Barack Obama, also dissented.

"In my view, the decision erroneously discards well-reasoned FLRA precedent governing revocation of union-dues allotments and, therefore, further weakens the institution of collective bargaining in the federal sector."

The FLRA said that the new union dues rule would comply with a 2018 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. State, County and Municipal Employees that determined public-sector unions cannot compel non-member workers to pay agency fees on First Amendment grounds.

Opponents of the FLRA rule have pointed to language in the majority decision in Janus that notes that agency fees are not permitted under federal law, and have questioned the applicability of Janus to the federal workplace.

The National Treasury Employees Union said it would sue the FLRA in the D.C. Court of Appeals, citing a 1981 case that determined dues could only be revoked once a year.

The public comment period is open until April 9.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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