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AFSCME Local 3299

How University of California employees Can Opt Out of a Portion of AFSCME Dues

U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that unions are not allowed to force public employees, through their union dues, to “contribute to the support of an ideological cause [they] may oppose as a condition of holding a job” Abood v. Detroit Board of Education 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

Consequently, anyone may resign from full union membership and request reduction in the withholding collected for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) of any dues the union used for political and non-essential activity. Employees will still have to pay a reduced “agency fee” to the union for its workplace representation services.

The total reduction of overcharges from the union has been roughly twenty-five percent – up to $315 – for local 3299.

If you object to AFSCME overcharging you for workplace representation, you may request the reduction by filling out the form below, printing it and mailing it to the AFSCME Local 3299 and sending a copy to the state controller.

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How do I keep my money from going to AFSCME’s nonessential activities like politics and ideological causes?

Completing the form above will generate a letter you can send to AFSCME to resign your formal union membership and request a reduction of withholding based on the portion of your dues the union spends on politics and activities unrelated to workplace representation.

Send a signed copy of your letter to:

Finance Manager
AFSCME Local 3299
2201 Broadway, Suite 315
Oakland, CA 94612-3204

Send the letter via certified mail so you have proof of delivery.  Keep a copy of the letter and your certified mail receipt for your reference.

How much less will I pay?

The reduction amount varies as the union’s spending on politics and nonessential activities changes from year to year. Local 3299’s most recent calculation shows that fee payers pay a fee of 1.5 percent of salary up to a maximum of $78.74 per month (Source: Local 3299 Hudson notice, 2017).  Full member dues appear in the constitution and are 2 percent (Source: Local 3299 Constitution, 2018).  Those who opt out and pay the agency fee receive approximately a 25% reduction.  A year’s reduction for a full time state employee could be a two or three hundred dollars.

The U.S. Supreme Court and California law require unions to explain to union nonmembers how it calculated the reduced agency fee the union collects from them. Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986). See the AFSCME Local 3299’s notice of reduced fee options here.

Why can’t public employees opt out of full dues?

Federal courts have acknowledged that the extraordinary power of unions to seize funds from people against their will can be abused. Specifically, courts have recognized that unions have the power to wrongfully overcharge public employees for workplace services, spending the excess on political activity employees may disagree with. In essence, this results in employees being compelled to fund political speech they don’t support in violation of the First Amendment.

When public employees pushed back against mandatory payment, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that employees have certain rights. As a result, you can keep the funds from overcharges and make your own decisions about politics and causes.

Key cases include Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, 500 U.S. 507 (1991), Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986), and Abood v. Detroit Board of Education 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

The California Public Employment Relations Board acknowledges these rights, and has a process unions must follow to notify employees of their rights and to issue refunds or reductions for overcharges. See Public Employment Relations Board Regulations on page 76-80.

AFSCME Local 3299 also acknowledges the right to pay only a fee. The option of paying a “fair share” fee is also specified in the university contract with the bargaining unit.

If I turn in the form above, will the union still help me with workplace issues?

Yes. The union must provide the full range of workplace representation services to those paying the agency fee, but you will no longer have to fund items unrelated to workplace representation like politics, marketing, litigation, and ideological causes. If AFSCME Local 3299 refuses to provide these services, it is violating its legal obligations.

The union has been recognized by the state as the exclusive representative of the members of your bargaining unit. It can and will prevent members of the bargaining unit from securing their own assistance with workplace issues. In return for the monopoly on representing employees in your bargaining unit, unions have a corresponding legal duty to provide fair representation to all employees, whether formal union members or not. The union is required to provide workplace representation, contract enforcement, discipline assistance and grievance assistance for those paying for such services through their agency fees.

If I stop paying full dues to the union, will I still receive the same wages and benefits specified in the union contract with my employer?

Yes. The union has arranged to be the “exclusive representative” of your bargaining unit, meaning that the same contract will cover all employees. As an agency fee payer, you will continue to receive the wages and benefits specified in the contract.

Does opting out affect my pension?

No. Under state law, a union contract is binding on all employees in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are technically union “members.” Your compensation, benefits (including retirement) and conditions of employment are all set by the contract with your employer and the state legislature, and these will remain unchanged whether you pay full union dues or only the agency fee.

Is there a deadline?

The Constitutional right to “Freedom of Association” guarantees that you can resign membership as you please. The processing of reduced fees or rebates of overcharges, however, can be subject to union preferences. Some are very reasonable about this; others allow their financial interests to motivate them to create a cumbersome and unfair process.

AFSCME Local 3299 has been suggesting that membership is “irrevocable” except during certain times. If you find that their response to you suggests your Constitutional rights are not going to be honored, contact us at this link.

How will my relationship with the union change if I resign my membership in AFSCME Local 3299 and pay the reduced agency fee?

While the terms of the contract will still govern your employment, as a nonmember, the union may choose to prevent you from participating in internal union affairs, such as attending union meetings or voting in union elections, including contract ratification votes. Unions also commonly withhold any special “members only” deals or discounts the union has arranged with businesses. You may no longer receive the union newsletter or similar publications.

How does AFSCME Local 3299 spend my dues money?

Public employee unions are private organizations with minimal obligations to disclose financial information to members.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that agency fee payers must be given an annual accounting of how much the union spends on “nonchargeable” activities which are refunded.

As a nonprofit, the IRS requires CFT’s 990 tax return to be a public document, and these can be found online at sites like this.

Those represented by AFSCME Local 3299 also pay several organizations affiliated with Local 3299:

AFSCME’s national affiliate;
AFL-CIO’s national organization;
the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; and
other appropriate central bodies of the AFL-CIO.

These are less likely to perform workplace representation services, and may report some of their financial activity to the IRS in their 990 tax returns or to the US Dept. of Labor in their LM-2 forms.

Will the union exclude me from workplace decisions?

Often, but not always. Some union local presidents will not allow bargaining unit members who pay for workplace representation to participate in bargaining unit decisions like contract votes or strike votes. This is unfair, but since they technically have no legal obligation to allow anyone to vote in the first place, they can legally exclude fee payers. Of course, nonmembers are not allowed to vote in union elections or other union business.

Can I donate to a charity instead?

Those who have a personal religious, faith-based objection to the union or its activities are allowed under state and federal law to donate the full amount of their dues to a charity instead of supporting the union. This option requires the objector to write a letter to the local union president. For more information about the accommodation for religious objectors, see the information here.

Why do unions get to take my money in the first place?

In Cal. Gov. Code Title 1, the state legislature granted unions a monopoly over workplace representation services for public employees and allowed them to require employees to financially support the union . AFSCME Local 3299 secured the privilege of representing university of California employees. The vote may have been long ago with few current employees having a say.

Unions representing public employees are not governed by the usual consumer protection or anti-trust laws, so abuses are possible. For example: Unions can charge whatever they wish. They can spend dues money on whatever they wish. They do not have to disclose how dues money is spent to members. They can speak for employees without consulting or informing them. They can injure some members’ interests while advancing the interests of others. They can prevent employees from getting help in their workplace from other sources. They are not governed by any obligation to provide quality service, and they almost never have to seek approval of the bargaining unit in an election to continue as the exclusive provider of workplace services.

Why do people opt out of the union?

Some simply do not like being overcharged for the services they receive.

Most who believe the union arrangement is not a good fit have more specific concerns. They may find that the union’s one-size-fits-all agenda does not serve them well because they are new to the profession, have a specialty which is not acknowledged in bargaining, or they believe their effectiveness is undercompensated. Some resent the union’s role in enabling and defending underperforming employees. Many find the politicking and use of dues to advance partisan causes, candidates and ideology distasteful. Still others believe that union officials take advantage of the power to force people to pay by overcharging and underperforming.

Some governing bodies of public employers do not agree to employee contracts that allow unions to force fees on employees. Some states ban such forced fee requirements to protect all public employees.

Public sector union activities – including negotiating with government – potentially violate the First Amendment rights of workers who are forced to fund the political voice of the union. In a pending U.S. Supreme Court Case, Janus v. AFSCME, a public employee from Illinois is seeking to prove that being forced to financially support a union is unconstitutional.  A ruling is expected in June 2018.