By ART CHANCE
With the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME, it is no longer legal to compel public employees to be union members or pay representation fees as a condition of employment.
For those public employees who choose to no longer be members or fee payers, it is not as simple as just stopping the payment or payroll deduction of dues if you are a member, and maybe even if you are a fee payer.
Few State employees and to the best of my knowledge few other public employees choose to be fee payers.
For a usually very small reduction in the payment to the union, an employee loses all rights to have a voice in the very collective bargaining process that the USSC had held that they could be compelled to pay for.
Janus reversed the Court’s prior holding on this issue. The vast majority of employees chose to be members so they could have a voice in contract ratifications or amendments and grievance resolutions. It does not change under Janus; if you do not choose to be a member, you will have no voice in what the union negotiates into, or out of, the labor agreement you work under.
So long as the union remains the certified exclusive representative of the bargaining it unit, the wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment it negotiates apply to all members of the bargaining unit, not just to members of the union, and the union has a duty of fair representation to all members of the bargaining unit whether or not an employee is a member of the union.
If you choose to exercise your right to stop paying dues and you are a member, you must, in writing, resign your membership in the union and send that resignation to the union. I would advise that you send it certified mail and also copy your employer; keep copies for yourself.
Notify your employer’s payroll or human resources/labor relations office that you want to cancel your dues deduction authorization, commonly called a dues check-off form. Give the notice to the employer in writing, copy the union, and keep copies.
Certified, return receipt isn’t a bad idea. Neither unions, nor administrations backed by unions are going to do anything to make this easy for you.
One of my regrets from my time with State labor relations is that I was never able to persuade my principals to come to the aid of employees who had stopped paying union dues in the periods when the State had stopped enforcing the compulsory dues provisions of labor agreements.
After the General Government Agreement expired on June 30, 1986, employees began drifting away from paying dues to the Alaska Public Employees Association and the State didn’t act on requests from APEA to dismiss employees for non-payment of dues.
APEA wasn’t very aggressive about it because they were being challenged by the nascent Alaska State Employees’ Association for representation of the unit, and didn’t need to make any more enemies.
When ASEA won the election and became the exclusive representative of the unit, the State took the position that only the mandatory terms; wages, hours, and terms and conditions, survived the change of representative and formally refused to enforce the union security provisions of the expired GGU agreement.
With nothing now to lose, APEA went after the employees who had stopped paying dues with a vengeance, and the courts sided with them. Lots of State employees only figured out that they had a judgment against them for unpaid dues when they tried to buy a house or car, and there were some very, very upset employees who had to pony up the money.
The courts held that just stopping the payment was not enough and that signing the membership form established a contractual relationship between the employee and the union that remained enforceable.
I don’t know how good the law is; you can always find a trial court judge who’ll side with a politically powerful entity in hopes of appointment to a higher court, but nobody appealed it to the Alaska Supreme Court, the State didn’t intervene, so that is the state of the law; unless and until you resign your membership in the union, you are obligated to keep paying them dues unless you just want to fight the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.
The same thing happened again when the State stopped enforcing ASEA’s compulsory dues provisions during the Hickel Administration. ASEA went for a couple of years without a contract and the State accepted employee requests to stop dues deductions. When the union-bought Knowles Administration gave ASEA their union security clause back, ASEA, like APEA before them, went after employees who had stopped paying with a vengeance and the courts sided with them.
So, I’m not advocating any action; there is a real downside to letting the ideologues and malcontents that form the hard core of union support determine your wages and working conditions; being a member allows you at least some opportunity to have a voice.
Knowing this, if you choose to stop paying dues or fees, protect yourself by resigning your membership or cancelling your fee payer authorization in addition to cancelling your dues/fees deduction from your check. Do it in writing, do it by certified mail, and keep copies of everything; your employer will not be your friend.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. Chance coined the phrase “hermaphrodite administration” to describe a governor who is simultaneously a Republican and a Democrat. This was a grave insult to hermaphrodites, but he has not apologized.