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The Fiduciary-Beneficiary Exception to the Attorney-Client Privilege as Applied to the Duty of Fair Representation Owed to Union Non-members

By James J. Plunckett
October 04, 2005
The current labor law in the United States allows unions in non-Right to Work states to compel payments from non-members as a condition of employment. Although the duty of fair representation requires unions to establish procedures to ensure that these compelled payments are not used improperly, non-members must often turn to the courts to enforce their rights. Complicated legal procedures, court rules, and technicalities can make this a daunting proposition. However, two recent cases have made it easier for nonmembers to hold unions accountable for compulsory unionism abuses. That is because these cases have demonstrated that the attorney-client privilege does not apply to communications between a union’s officers and its in-house counsel that concern the union’s duty of fair representation owed to nonmembers forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment....