In-house counsel across the country have unexpectedly learned about or reacquainted themselves with the National Labor Relations Act over the course of President Obama’s administration. Most of these lessons have been caused by the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) very strong efforts to re-establish the relevancy of the board that has been lost in recent times through the decline of union membership in private sector workplaces. The board has not shied away from controversy during the past four years and has seen increased attention as a result.
This trend continued through the very end of 2012 as the NLRB issued what may be one of its most controversial decisions. Decades of precedent establishing an employer’s right to terminate dues-checkoff at the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement was cast aside in the NLRB’s Dec. 12, 2012, decision WKYC-TV, Inc.. Dues-checkoff refers to a way in which a union can collect membership dues from employees. As part of a collective bargaining agreement, the employer and union can agree that dues will be automatically deducted from the paychecks of union members. This provides an easy and efficient way to ensure that the union stays well-funded. It eliminates the need for the union to approach each individual bargaining unit member to collect his dues obligation.