FOP Not Entitled To Dues Deduction Where Not Certified As Bargaining Representative

The exclusive collective bargaining representative for officers employed by the Laredo, Texas Police Department is the Laredo Police Officers’ Association. The Association was the winner of a properly-held collective bargaining representative election, and counts as its members 81 percent of the 418 officers employed by the Department.

A clause in the Association’s collective bargaining agreement requires the City to deduct the Association’s dues from the paychecks of any members who elect the payroll deduction, but does not authorize payroll dues deductions to any other employee organization. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) filed a lawsuit challenging that the clause in the Association’s contract violated its free speech rights.

A federal court upheld the constitutionality of the contract clause. The Court found that “it is recognized that a labor association chosen by a majority of employees may lawfully and constitutionally enjoy a status as to check-off or other privileges that other organizations do not enjoy. There is a recognized rational basis for such a public policy to avoid inter-union disputes and labor discord in a public employee forum. This practice has become commonplace in private industry and in the labor policies of other governmental bodies.”

The Court also ruled that provisions in the contract that allowed the Association exclusive privileges with respect to access to communication facilities within the Department was constitutional. The Court held that “the differential access provided the Association and the FOP is reasonable because use of certain facilities enables the Association to perform effectively its obligations as exclusive representative of all officers. Conversely, the FOP does not have any official responsibility in connection with the Department and need not be entitled to the same rights of access. Indeed, it may well be an unfair labor practice to grant access to internal communication facilities to unions other than the exclusive bargaining representative.”

The FOP did win a portion of the case, however, when the Court held that the law required the FOP to have some “alternative means of communication with the officers in the Department.” The Court did not describe what such an alternate means of communication might be, but instead referred the matter back to the parties for discussion of the issue.

Laredo Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Laredo, 2008 WL 678698 (S.D.Tex. 2008).

This article appears in the June 2008 issue