No Right For Non-Members To Vote On Contract

Three members of Local 1583 of AFSCME circulated a decertification petition in an effort to have a vote on the removal of Local 1583 as the representative for their bargaining unit. Local 1583 then brought charges against the employees under AFSCME’s constitution, which authorizes charges when a union member engages in “any activity which assists or is intended to assist a competing organization within the jurisdiction of the union.”

Trials were conducted by a “trial body” within AFSCME, which concluded that the charging parties had violated AFSCME’s constitution. An AFSCME “judicial panel” expelled all three employees from membership. Necessarily flowing from the expulsion was the denial to the three employees of the right to vote on contract ratification, a right AFSCME limits to members.

The three employees filed unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, alleging that AFSCME’s sanctions violated Michigan’s collective bargaining law in that it prevented them and co-employees from freely choosing or displacing their bargaining representative. The Commission rejected the charges, concluding that “union members may be suspended or expelled from the union, prohibited from attending union meetings or voting in internal union elections, and otherwise be restricted by the union so long as the union’ s actions do not have a direct effect on the union members’ terms and conditions of employment.”

The case wound up at the Michigan Court of Appeals, which upheld the dismissal of the charges brought by the employee. The Court found that “the bar against a labor organization coercing or restraining a public employee with respect to the employee’s free choice in selecting a collective-bargaining representative and making organizing decisions is subject to the labor organization’s right to prescribe rules concerning the acquisition or retention of membership. Thus, while it may be coercive and impact free choice when a labor organization employs a rule that suspends or expels members for assisting a competing labor organization, the rule pertains to maintaining membership in a union and is thus permissible.

“There is no provision in the collective bargaining law that supports the assertion that nonmembers have a protected right to vote in a ratification election. And it is entirely irrelevant to the analysis that the charging parties were involuntarily expelled members, rather than members who voluntarily relinquished their union membership; the charging parties were nonmembers. Employees within the bargaining unit who are not union members need not be afforded the right to vote on the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement. The only obligation owed such nonmembers by the union is the duty of fair representation. That duty is not violated by the mere failure of the union to allow the nonmembers to vote on the contract.”

AFSCME Council 25 v. Yunkman, 2015 WL 3505668 (Mich. App. 2015).