On October 26, 2015, Administrative Law Judge David I. Goldman (“ALJ Goldman”) held that a union did not violate federal labor law by maintaining a rule requiring that members wishing to resign or to revoke a dues check-off do so in person at a union hall with a photo ID and a written request.  Local 58, Int’l Brotherhood of Elec. Workers, ALJ No. 07-CB-149555 (Oct. 26, 2015).

Citing a history of members losing their membership through fraudulently submitted paperwork, on October 1, 2014, the union announced a policy providing that any member desiring to opt out of membership or dues deduction must bring a written request and picture identification to a local union hall.  The policy also stated that any member who believes that appearing in person poses an undue hardship could contact the union hall to make other arrangements to verify his/her identity.  The National Labor Relations Board’s (the “Board”) General Counsel alleged that his policy was unlawful on its face, “without regard to motive, enforcement, application, or any record evidence that an employee’s failure to comply with the policy has consequences of any kind.”  According to the General Counsel, the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) prohibits a union from prescribing any particular method for resigning membership or for revoking a dues check-off authorization.

ALJ Goldman disagreed with the General Counsel’s position.  ALJ Goldman observed that “only where the rule on its face squarely abridges resignation in a manner that has unequivocally been found to be unlawful to enforce, will the Board find a violation of [the Act] based on maintenance of the rule.”  According to ALJ Goldman, the Board has found resignation rules facially invalid only where such rules prohibited resignation at certain times (i.e., during a strike), required payment of fines, dues, or levies to affect resignation, or permitted the union to retain control over an employee after resignation.  This rule, on the other hand, merely prescribed a manner and place for resignation but did not restrict a member’s ability to resign.

In rendering his decision, ALJ Goldman noted that the General Counsel’s challenge was based on the text of the union rule alone, without any evidence that the union actually applied the rule to prevent any member from resigning.  ALJ Goldman thus concluded that, although such application of the rule may not survive scrutiny, “the mere maintenance of this policy does not violate the Act on its face, under existing Board precedent.”