SW Legal studies in Business

Agency Fees May Include Costs of National Union Litigation
Description Appeals court held that it was proper for the agency fees paid by non-members of a union to include the cost of litigation incurred by the national union that concerned union representation matters, since such litigation relates to the benefits and procedures of all persons represented by a union.
Topic Labor Law
Key Words

Agency Shop; Service Fees; Non-members

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

The Maine State Employees Association (MESA) is the exclusive bargaining agent for certain state employees. Members of the union pay union dues; non-members pay agency fees. Agency fees cover all expenses related to union services as the bargaining agent. Lobbying expenses are not included in agency fees. However, included in the agency fees are the costs of litigation expenses incurred by its national affiliate union. Some employees who were non-members challenged the constitutionality of being forced to contribute to litigation by the national union. The district court held for the union; the employees appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. According to the Supreme Court, fees may be charged to non-members that are pooled from unions to help support the national union if the activities involved are 1) “germane” to collective-bargaining activity, that is, substantively related to bargaining and ultimately benefit local union members; 2) justified by the government’s vital policy interest in labor peace and avoiding free riders, and 3) not significant in burdening free speech that is inherent in the allowance of an agency shop. Since the national litigation involves grievance issues and negotiation agreement issues, its resolution is germane to the non-members represented by the union, so they may be charged fees for this activity.

Citation Locke v. Karass, 498 F.3d 49 (1st Cir., 2007)

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