The cost of a postage stamp was not enough for Beck objectors to request a refund from their unions, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.
In Douglas Richards, et al. v. National Labor Relations Board and United Steel, et al., 12-1973 & 12-1984, the 7th Circuit dismissed the petitions for review on the grounds that the petitioners did not suffer any injury because of the NLRB’s actions and, therefore they lacked standing to bring the appeal.
The case originated with Douglas Richards, an Indiana resident who worked at Cequent Towing Products in Goshen. He filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Steel Workers, arguing that the union created an undue burden by requiring employees to annually file Beck objections which excused them from having to pay the fees unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration or grievance adjustment.
Other union members, Ronald R. Echegaray and David Yost, from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, respectively, joined the suit. Through the NLRB General Counsel, the petitioners urged an end to the annual renewal policies and asked for refunds for all employees who had once objected in the past but failed to renew.
In August 2011, the NLRB ruled that the annual renewal policies violated the unions’ duty of fair representations and ordered the annual renewal policies no longer be enforced. It did not, however, address the request for refunds.
The petitioners filed motions for reconsideration. In April 2012, the board denied the motions, ruling that retroactive refunds were inappropriate because the unions had not necessarily been on notice that their annual renewal policies were unlawful.
The charging parties then filed petitions for review with the 7th Circuit.
The court found the petitioners did not suffer any injury-in-fact from the NLRB decisions. They either renewed their objections each year or were not required to renew. When the board ordered the unions to no longer enforce their annual renewal policies, that burden was lifted and the threat was removed.
The petitioners argued that Echegaray and Yost were “aggrieved” because the NLRB failed to order reimbursement for the postage costs that they incurred when they annually mailed their objections.
However, the 7th Circuit maintained it could not rule whether the board abused its discretion in denying relief because the petitioners never made any meaningful request for postage reimbursement. Consequently, the NLRB never had an opportunity to consider a request for that relief.