The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) often finds labor law violations against employers, but it also regulates conduct by unions and issues decisions against them when violations are found. A recent advice memo issued by the agency with respect to misconduct by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union shows such an instance.
At issue in the case was an IBEW member who wanted to resign their membership with the union to pursue another job opportunity. In response, however, a union representative “got very angry” and refused to provide the member with information on how to resign. In fact, when the member proceeded with their plans to withdraw their membership, the union levied internal charges against them and forced them to appear before the IBEW’s disciplinary board.
The NLRB determined the union’s conduct violated the National Labor Relations Act and held: “We conclude that the Union violated Section 8(b)(1)A) by impeding [the member’s] ability to refrain from Union activities when it failed to provide [the member] requested information on how to resign [the member’s] Union membership…Moreover, the Board has long held that unions have a fiduciary duty to deal fairly with their members, and that this fiduciary duty ‘includes the obligation to notify members of the lack of restrictions on resignation.’”
This offers a reminder that labor law protects employees from labor law violations by unions just as it protects them from employer violations, and unions cannot unlawfully impede their members’ resignations.