Communications Workers of America v. Beck

PETITIONER: Communications Workers of America
RESPONDENT: Beck
LOCATION: Federal Bureau of Prisons

DOCKET NO.: 86-637
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 487 US 735 (1988)
ARGUED: Jan 11, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1988

ADVOCATES:
Edwin Vieira, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondents
Laurence E. Gold - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Communications Workers of America v. Beck

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 1988 in Communications Workers of America v. Beck

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 29, 1988 in Communications Workers of America v. Beck

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The first of the two cases is Communications Workers of America versus Beck, which is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act permits an employer and a union to enter into an agreement requiring all employees in the bargaining unit to pay union dues as a condition of continued employment, whether or not the employees become union members.

The petitioner union entered into a collective-bargaining agreement that contains a union-security clause under which all represented employees who do not become union members must pay the union agency fees in amounts equal to the dues paid by union members.

Respondents who are bargaining unit employees who chose not to become union members filed a suite in Federal District Court challenging the union's use of their agency fees for the purposes other than collective-bargaining, contract administration, or grievance adjustment.

They alleged that expenditure of their fees on activities such as organizing the employees of other employers, lobbying for labor legislation and participating in social, charitable and political events violated the union's duty of fair representation Section 8(a)(3) and the First Amendment.

The District Court concluded that the union's collection and disbursement of agency fees for the purposes other than collective-bargaining activities violated the associational and free speech rights of objecting nonmembers, and granted injunctive relief and an order for the reimbursement of excess fees.

The Court of Appeals preferring to rest of its judgment on a ground other than the Constitution, ultimately concluded that the collection of nonmembers' fees for purposes unrelated to collective-bargaining violated the union's duty of fair representation.

We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

We hold that the courts below properly exercised jurisdiction of respondents' claims that exactions of agency fees beyond those necessary to finance collective-bargaining activities violated the judicially created duty of fair representation and also violated respondents' First Amendment rights.

We hold further that Section 8(a)(3) does not permit a union over the objections of dues paying nonmember employees to expend the funds collected from them on activities unrelated to collective-bargaining activities.

The case is controlled belied by a decision in Machinists versus Street some years ago.

And that case involved Section 2 Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act and not the National Labor Relations Act which is what is involved in the case before us today.

But Section 2 Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act does not permit a union over the objections of nonmembers to expend union agency fees and political causes and therefore, Street is controlling because Section 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act and Section 2 Eleventh of the Railway Labor Act are in all material respects identical and the canon of statutory construction that the same language in two statutes we constitute in light fashions as particularly applicable here where the statutory equivalent reflects the fact that the two provisions were born on the same congressional concerns.

Section 8(a)(3) was intended to correct the abuses of compulsory unionism developed under closed shop agreements.

At the same time, we require through union security clauses that nonmember employees pay their share the cost of benefits secured by the unions through collective-bargaining.

And those same concerns prompted Congress' later amendment of the Railway Labor Act.

Given this parallel purposes, the structure and language of 8(a)(3) and Section 2 Eleventh, both provisions must be interpreted we believe in the same manner.

Only the most compelling evidence would support a contrary conclusion and petitioners have not proffered such evidence here.

Justice Blackmun joined by Justice O'Connor and Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Justice Kennedy took no part in the case.