Seattle Boeing technician Don Zueger is suing International Association of Machinists (IAM) union officials in federal court for violating his right to refrain from paying for unwanted union activities. He is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation,
Zueger, who is not a member of the IAM union, is defending his right under the Foundation-won 1988 CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that union officials cannot charge full union dues to objecting private sector workers who have abstained from formal union membership. Under Beck, union officials can only charge union nonmembers “fees” which exclude expenses for things like union political activities.
Because Washington State lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, nonmembers like Zueger can be forced to pay the reduced amount under Beck as a condition of keeping their jobs. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
IAM Officials Continue to Overcharge Worker in Violation of His Rights
According to Zueger’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, he submitted a request to IAM union officials in February resigning his union membership and asking for his dues payments to be reduced under Beck.
Zueger’s lawsuit reports that IAM officials’ response to his Beck request claimed that, under IAM’s nationwide policy, the portion of union dues he is required to pay is based on averages of selected audits that in each case include nine other local and district IAM affiliates. This means the forced union fee amount is not calculated using the actual amounts determined in the audits of the local and district IAM affiliates that Zueger is required to fund as a condition of employment. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in Zueger’s dues reduction being significantly less than it would have been had union officials only used the audits for the district and local affiliates Zueger is forced to fund.
According to his lawsuit, union officials are still demanding from Zueger dues in excess of the amount Beck permits. The lawsuit seeks to force IAM union bosses to return all money demanded in violation of Beck and to properly reduce his future union payments in accordance with Beck.
Workers Should Be Wary of Illegal Union Dues Schemes as Union Political Activity Increases
Zueger’s lawsuit comes after union bosses spent near-record sums on politics during the 2020 election cycle. A report by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) released in 2021 revealed that union officials’ own Department of Labor filings show about $2 billion in political spending during the 2020 cycle, primarily from dues-stocked union general treasuries. Moreover, other estimates strongly suggest that actual union spending on political and lobbying activities actually topped $12 billion in 2019-2020.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out when union officials are trying to strong-arm employees into subsidizing union activities, including politics, against their will. IAM officials’ nonmember dues scheme doesn’t pass the smell test,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While we’re proud to help Mr. Zueger defend his Beck rights, ultimately no American worker should be forced to pay fees determined by the whims of union officials simply in order to keep their jobs.”
“This case shows why Right to Work laws are needed nationwide to ensure that the decision to join or financially support a union is strictly a matter of each individual worker’s own conscience. Workers should be especially aware of attempts by union officials to force them to fund union activities as union political activity heats up in advance of this year’s elections,” Mix added.