Unions lose ruling in Appeals Court on contributions - East Valley Tribune: Business

Unions lose ruling in Appeals Court on contributions

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Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:55 am | Updated: 3:02 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Labor unions in Arizona can’t demand provisions in their contracts with employers that workers who refuse to join the labor organization still can be forced to make financial contributions, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.

The judges rejected arguments by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that the “Right to Work’’ provisions in the state constitution restrict solely the ability of unions to demand a “closed shop,’’ with all workers having to belong. Daniel Bonnett, an attorney for AFSCME said that does not bar unions from insisting that nonunion workers contribute to bargaining efforts that help all workers.

But Judge Lawrence Winthrop, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said the concept, known as “fair share,’’ also would violate the constitution. He said the “clear intent’’ of voters in approving the 1946 amendment “was to ensure the freedom of workers to choose whether to join and participate in a union.’’

The decision deals with bargaining efforts between the union and Phoenix. But the implications of the ruling spread beyond that, also including private employers.

City ordinance designates the local chapter of the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for all workers within designated work units. That means it is responsible for negotiating, administering and enforcing collective bargaining agreements for all workers, union members or not.

The chapter gets most of its money from union dues, though the city also provides some cash.

Beginning in 2001 that chapter and other unions began seeking “fair share’’ provisions in new contracts. But city officials balked, questioning its legality. The dispute eventually landed in court.

Bonnett conceded the state constitution not only prohibits a requirement that people join a union but also likely would make it illegal to require nonunion members to pay the equivalent of full union dues.

But he said that doesn’t preclude unions from requiring nonmembers to pay a proportionate share of the cost of services done for the whole bargaining unit — including those not in the union.

But Winthrop said Bonnett is missing the point. He said it is the “compulsion” to support the union, not the “amount “that is at issue --and that remains unconstitutional.

“Allowing the proposed ‘fair share’ fee would be contrary to the intent voiced by Arizona citizens because it would essentially render meaningless the distinction between union membership and nonmembership,’’ Winthrop explained. “Nonmembers would be forced to contribute to, and thus support, the union.’’

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