Abels v. Monroe County Educ. Ass'n

Decision Date18 February 1986
Docket NumberNo. 1-385A66,1-385A66
Citation123 L.R.R.M. 3006,489 N.E.2d 533
Parties123 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3006, 30 Ed. Law Rep. 842 Helen ABELS, et al., Defendants-Appellants, v. MONROE COUNTY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff-Appellee.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

David T. Bryant, Nat. Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc., Springfield, Va., Ronald L. Chapman, Cotner, Mann & Chapman, Bloomington, for defendants-appellants.

Richard J. Darko, Janet C. Knapp, Tabbert & Capehart, Indianapolis, Edward F. McCrea, McCrea & McCrea, Bloomington, for plaintiff-appellee.



Appellants, non-member 1 certificated employees of the Monroe County Community School Corporation, appeal Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law entered by the Monroe Superior Court on January 4, 1985, in favor of the appellee, Monroe County Education Association. We affirm.


The Monroe County School Corporation (School Corporation) and the Monroe County Education Association (MCEA) entered into a collective bargaining agreement for the 1981-1982 and 1982-1983 school years. In part, that agreement provided for the payment of a fair share representation fee by the School Corporation's teachers who were not members of MCEA. The agreement stated:

"Section 2--Representation Fee

a) All members of the bargaining unit who are not also members of the Association have an obligation to pay a Representation Fee to the Association * * *

                including the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association.   The Representation Fee shall be the unified dues of the Associations less an amount determined by the procedures provided for in subsection c below

c) The Association recognizes that no member of the bargaining unit should be forced to contribute financial support to political or ideological activities of the Association unrelated to the collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment, or unrelated to its duties as exclusive bargaining representatives. Consequently, the Association agrees to adopt an Internal Association remedy providing for a pro rata refund of that portion of the Representation Fee which is unrelated.

* * *

f) The provisions of Article 2.08, Section 2, will not be enforced against any person who initiates proceedings challenging the legality of this article, pending final disposition of such proceedings, except that the Representation Fee may be collected and the Representation Fee of the person will be held in escrow. [Emphasis added.]"

Record at 175. The validity of this clause was challenged in Hollingsworth v. Monroe County Community School Corporation and Monroe County Education Association (June 20, 1983), Brown Circuit Court, Cause No. 81 C 308, a class action brought by the appellants. There, on the basis of this court's opinion in Fort Wayne Education Association v. Goetz (1982), Ind.App., 443 N.E.2d 364, trans. denied, the Brown Circuit Court concluded that the challenged clause violated neither the United States nor Indiana constitutions. The court specifically withheld judgment on what amount was properly due under the representation fee clause however. Neither party appealed that judgment.

During the 1981-1982 school year, MCEA sought a total fair share representation fee of $204.49 from each full-time teacher who was not a member of the union. That amount included $20.00 for MCEA, $140.91 for the Indiana State Teachers Associations (ISTA), and $43.58 for the National Education Association (NEA). 2 For the 1982-1983 school year, MCEA sought a representation fee of $226.22. This amount included $22.00 for MCEA, $155.73 for ISTA, and $48.49 for NEA. 3 The appellants, however, refused to pay any representation fees. Consequently, MCEA initiated this action to collect the fair share representation fee alleged to be due. Following a bench trial, the Monroe Superior Court found for MCEA and entered judgment against the appellants. Appellants subsequently perfected this appeal asserting a number of errors. We will develop additional facts below.


Appellants assert a number of issues in their briefs. Essentially, however, this appeal raises two issues:

1. Whether the trial court erred when it determined that the fair share representation fee could include payments to ISTA and NEA.

2. Whether the trial court correctly calculated the amount of the fair share representation fee.

Issue One

Although far from clear, appellants initially appear to assert that MCEA may not collect any representation fee for either ISTA or NEA. Their argument seems to be two-fold. First, they contend that non-members may only be required to pay a fair share representation fee to the bargaining unit's exclusive representative. The argument continues, in essence, that MCEA alone was qualified to act as the exclusive representative. They assert that neither ISTA nor NEA were entitled to act in that capacity. Hence, they conclude, only the exclusive representative, MCEA, could demand a representation fee from non-members. This precise argument has been uniformly rejected by all courts which have considered it however.

We first must note that there is no question that MCEA alone was elected as the exclusive representative for the bargaining unit. In fact, no one has ever contended that either ISTA or NEA are co-exclusive representatives with MCEA. Contrary to appellants' arguments, however, it is clear that MCEA was elected exclusive representative in its status as an affiliate of both ISTA and NEA. The real issue then is whether a member of the bargaining unit, who has not joined the union, may be required to pay any representation fees to the exclusive representative's state or national affiliate organizations. We believe it clear that such fees can be demanded.

In the seminal case in this area of the law, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), 431 U.S. 209, 97 S.Ct. 1782, 52 L.Ed.2d 261, the United States Supreme Court recognized the wide range of activities an exclusive representative may be called upon to perform. There, the Court stated:

"The designation of a union as exclusive representative carries with it great responsibilities. The tasks of negotiating and administering a collective-bargaining agreement and representing the interests of employees in settling disputes and processing grievances are continuing and difficult ones. They often entail expenditure of much time and money. See, [ International Ass'n of Machinists v.] Street, 367 U.S. , at 760, 81 S.Ct. [1784], at 1795 . The services of lawyers, expert negotiators, economists, and research staff, as well as general administrative personnel, may be required."

Abood, at 221, 97 S.Ct. at 1792, 52 L.Ed.2d at 275. State and national organizations, particularly in the area of education, have traditionally supplied these and other services to assist their local affiliates in carrying out collective bargaining responsibilities. Such a network spreads the costs of acquiring these services, thus, facilitating collective bargaining activities even for the smaller bargaining units. If a local organization were required to employ its own staff of lawyers, expert negotiators, economists, and researchers, as the appellants' argument necessarily suggests, the costs of collective bargaining could quickly become prohibitive. We have found no support for such a result.

In a recent opinion of this court, New Prairie Classroom Teachers Ass'n. v. Stewart (1986), Ind.App., 487 N.E.2d 1324 (appeal after remand) (hereinafter referred to as Stewart II ), authored by Judge Staton, we expressly rejected an argument identical to the one advanced by the appellants. Stewart II, at 1327. Additionally, as Judge Staton pointed out in Stewart II, similar representation fee clauses in collective bargaining agreements requiring payments to both ISTA and NEA, previously have been upheld by this court. See New Prairie Classroom Teachers Ass'n. v. Stewart (1983), Ind.App., 460 N.E.2d 149, 151; Fort Wayne Education Ass'n. v. Goetz (1982), Ind.App., 443 N.E.2d 364, 373, trans. denied. Other jurisdictions have also refused to recognize appellants' arguments. In Cumero v. Public Employment Relations Board (1985), 167 Cal.App.3d Appellants also have failed to justify the second prong of their attack on the representation fees MCEA sought for ISTA and NEA. This argument is essentially offered as an alternative to the first. They assert that if they are required to pay any monies to either ISTA or NEA, they should be required to pay only a pro rata portion of the costs actually expended by ISTA and NEA in assisting MCEA in carrying out its collective bargaining responsibilities with the School Corporation. They argue, in effect, that they should not be required to pay any costs expended by ISTA or NEA in providing collective bargaining services to other exclusive representatives. This view is far too narrow.

131, 213 Cal.Rptr. 326, pet. for review granted 215 Cal.Rptr. 852, 701 P.2d 1170, the California Court of Appeal rejected non-members' contentions that they could not be forced to pay a fair share representation fee to state or national affiliate organizations because they were not the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit. Id. at 148, 213 Cal.Rptr. at 338. The California court found that such a rule would seriously undermine the common practice of affiliation, a result for which the court found no support. Clearly, neither do we.

Judge Staton rejected this position in Stewart II. At 1327. As we noted above, there are numerous services which an exclusive representative would need to employ in order to effectively fulfill its collective bargaining responsibilities. MCEA has chosen to pay fixed yearly fees to ISTA and NEA in return for continuous availability of a wide range of services. Certainly MCEA could have determined that another method of acquiring these collective bargaining services...

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