Court Serves Organized Labor Possible Severe Financial Blow / concerning Compulsory Fees

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) - Organized labor was dealt a potentially severe financial blow Wednesday from a Supreme Court ruling that non-union workers may sometimes withhold financial support from unions representing them in collective bargaining.

Meanwhile, the justices made it easier for workers to prove their bosses were guilty of illegal discrimination and barred states from placing sweeping regulations on professional groups that solicit contributions for charities.

By a 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that non-union employees of private employers may not be forced to pay the equivalent of union dues if some of that money is used for activities not directly related to collective bargaining.

The high court said that using compulsory fees paid by non-union employees under so-called ``agency shop'' contracts to pursue a union's political goals violates federal labor law.

Thousands of labor contracts require workers who choose not to join the unions representing them to pay the same amount in fees as members pay in dues.

Although federal labor law allows states to pass ``right-to-work'' laws barring such agency-fee requirements, 29 states representing two-thirds of the nation's population have chosen not to pass such laws.

In those states, over 90 percent of the collective bargaining agreements to which a key federal labor law applies carry agency-fee requirements.

The justices were told that 6 million workers are covered by such contracts.

The high court in 1977 had ruled that public employees - those who work for some governmental entity - have the right to withhold that portion of their non-member union fees used by the union for activities not directly related to collective bargaining. …