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Union charges fee to handle grievances; Mackinac Center Legal Foundation responds with lawsuit

First legal challenge in post-Michigan Right to Work era on grievance fees for non-dues paying members

Detroit, Mich. —Aug. 26, 2013— In one of the first challenges to a Union’s response to Michigan’s Right to Work legislation, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a complaint on Aug. 22 alleging that Teamsters’ Local 214 policy of requiring employees to pay a fee for handling grievances and arbitration, but exempting employees who are members in good standing, is unlawful because it violates the Public Employment Relations Act and the Union’s duty of fair representation obligations.

According to Cliff Hammond, an attorney with Detroit-based employment law firm Nemeth Burwell, P.C. and an expert on Michigan’s Right to Work law, this is the first legal challenge since Right to Work went into effect early this year to the Teamsters’ policy of charging non-dues paying members to handle a “grievance”.

“Under the new amendments made to Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act, public sector employees cannot be forced, intimidated, threatened, or compelled to become a member of a union or financially support a union, and a person cannot be required to pay dues, fees, or assessments as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment,” said Hammond. “The Complaint alleges that the threat of additional fees is meant to compel public employees to join or remain a union member.”

Hammond noted the Complaint also claims the Union’s policy violates the requirement that the Union represent all employees, not just union members.

“The Complaint alleges that compelling nonmembers to pay a fee to provide vital collective bargaining services, specifically grievance handling, is a violation of the Union’s duty to represent all employees,” said Hammond. “The Complaint also claims the policy discriminates against nonunion members by refusing to process a grievance without assessing the merits of the grievance, in violation of the union’s duty of fair representation.

Hammond said it will be interesting to see how the Court responds.

“The use of fees for representation of non-members is not new nationally, but Michigan’s specific law and this particular policy are what are being challenged,” said Hammond. “It will be interesting to see how the Court handles this case, if it all, as it may be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission for public employees and the National Labor Relations Board for private sector employees.”

About Nemeth Burwell, P.C.

Nemeth Burwell specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest women-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.