Although union membership has been declining for some time, there are still many unions that represent the interests of millions of workers in the U.S. While many labor unions fight for improved wages, benefits, and working conditions, there are also laws to protect the rights of individual union members and to guard against corruption within the labor organization itself. Some of these laws relate to an employee’s right to opt out of the fees unions charge for their services. Read on to learn more about these laws and how to stop paying union dues if you’ve chosen to opt out.
Reasons to Opt Out of Paying Union Dues
Using a process of collective bargaining, unions work to negotiate better terms and working conditions for workers in various industries. To pay for the costs of these services, unions charge fees that you might have to pay whether you’re a card-carrying union member or not. However, more and more workers are realizing that they might not have to pay all or part of these dues depending on the laws that apply to them.
The reasons for opting out of paying dues vary, but might include any of the following:
How to Stop Paying Union Dues: Right to Work States
Over half of the states have what are called “right to work” laws. These laws usually state that union membership and the payment of union dues can’t be required conditions of employment. Therefore, in these states, unions and employers can’t sign contracts where they agree to only hire union workers, or where they require the automatic deduction of union dues from their employees’ paychecks.
So, if you live in a right to work state and you wish to stop paying dues, you should notify the union and your employer in writing that you are resigning your membership and canceling your payment of dues. If you signed something authorizing your employer to automatically deduct dues from your paycheck, you may only have a small window of time each year to revoke this authorization. Check with your union to determine what that time frame is.
How to Stop Paying Union Dues: Other States
Regardless of where you live, the Supreme Court has ruled that you can resign union membership at any time. However, if you don’t work in one of the right to work states discussed above, unions can still force you to pay fees similar to union dues (often called “agency fees”), even if you are not a union member. This is because all employees benefit from collective bargaining agreements, regardless of union membership status. Despite all of that, you may still have a right to pay reduced fees.
For example, you can object to fees that are used for anything unrelated to the costs of collective bargaining, such as political campaigns or the advancement of causes that are against your religion. In these cases, the union may only charge you for your share of the costs of collective bargaining. To pay the reduced fee, send a letter to the union stating that you object to paying for more than your share of the collective bargaining expenses, and request a copy of the union’s procedural requirements for opting out of these fees.
Additionally, because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, you may also be able to decline union membership and the payment of fees based on your sincerely held religious beliefs. Many state laws include such opt-out provisions, which let you divert your fees to certain types of charities instead.
Know and Defend Your Rights with the Help of an Attorney
There are many labor laws designed to protect the rights of employees, but knowing which ones apply to you is often confusing. Additionally, the windows for lodging objections or filing a complaint against a union or employer can be very narrow. Whether you’re wondering how to stop paying union dues, or you need help defending your other rights as an employee, contact a local labor attorney who can guide you in the right direction.