Supreme Court rejects demand that union defend non-union grievances for free

Employee unions don't have to provide free services to non-union members fighting grievances, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The issue was raised after employees at University Medical Center in Las Vegas dropped out of the Service Employees Union Local 1107 and the union set up a fee schedule for non-union members who wanted SEIU lawyers to represent them in grievance cases.

That policy imposed charges of at least $60 an hour for consultations with non-union workers, billing them for half the cost of hearing officers and arbitrators and 100 percent of the union attorney fees up to $200 an hour.

A group of non-union workers filed the lawsuit, arguing that violates the state Local Government Employee-Management Relations Act because the union is still legally charged with representing the entire bargaining unit - union and non-union members. They said the fee schedule effectively served to coerce them to join the union.

The Employee-Management Relations Board ruled against them, as did the district court. But the district court did order that the union make it clear the fees would be applied only in handling individual grievances, not generalized grievances affecting all workers in a bargaining unit.

The workers took the issue to the Supreme Court arguing the union is obligated by plain language in state law to "exclusively" represent all employees including non-union members in all grievance matters without a fee.

The court ruled that state law prohibits a local government employer from discriminating against non-union and prohibits unions from coercing workers to join.

"We see no discrimination or coercion, however, in requiring non-union members to pay reasonable costs associated with individual grievance representation," the opinion states.

It concludes that requiring unions to shoulder the cost of defending individual cases involving non-union members would amount to "essentially requiring union members to shoulder the burden of costs associated with non-union members' individual grievance representation."


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