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OEA

How Educators in Oregon Can Opt Out of a Portion of OEA Dues

Over 44,000 teachers and other public school employees in Oregon are represented by the Oregon Education Association (OEA).

Each year, the OEA and its affiliates charge teachers about $900 dollars in union dues and fees. However, much of the union’s budget goes towards political activity and other causes that are unrelated to workplace representation.

U.S. Supreme Court decisions have long established that unions are not allowed to charge teachers for “the support of an ideological cause [they] may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public school teacher” (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977)).

As a result, any teacher or other public school employee may become an “agency fee payer” by resigning formal union membership and paying a reduced workplace representation fee, which is less than full union dues.

The total refund of overcharges from the union can range from $250 to $350 each year.

You can request your refund by filling out the form below, printing it and mailing it to the OEA.

To reduce your payment to the union:

  1. Enter your information into the form below and click “submit.”
  2. On the next page, click the link to open your customized form. You will also receive an email with a link to your form.
  3. Print the form. If you check the appropriate box below, we’ll mail you a copy of the form.
  4. Sign and date the form.
  5. Mail the completed form to the OEA at the address at the top of the form. We highly recommend sending it via certified mail.
  • We will not contact you unless you choose to receive updates from us
  • e.g. Portland School District, Oregon State University, etc.

The union will still represent you in collective bargaining, contract management and grievance processing, but you can save hundreds of dollars per year and make your own decisions about politics and causes.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Depending on the outcome of a pending U.S. Supreme Court case called Janus v. AFSCME, public employees nationwide could have the ability to opt out of paying all union dues as early as July 2018.

FAQs

How do I keep my money from going to the OEA’s extraneous activities like politics and ideological causes?

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

Send a signed copy of your letter to:

Bob Sande, Assistant Executive Director
Oregon Education Association
6900 SW Atlanta Street
Portland, OR 97223

We highly recommend sending 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 is the refund?

The amount of the refund varies as the union’s spending on politics and non-essential activities changes from year to year. A year’s refund for a full-time teacher typically ranges from $250 to $350.

Each year, the OEA must calculate what portion of its budget is “nonchargeable,” or refundable to agency fee payers. For example, if the union estimates that 30 percent of its budget goes towards political and other nonessential activity during a given year, then an agency fee payer will pay 30 percent less than full union dues that year.

The U.S. Supreme Court has required unions to provide this calculation (commonly referred to as a Hudson notice) to all agency fee payers. (Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986)). Employees who opt out of the OEA and request their refund should receive this notice each September.

The OEA’s most recent Hudson notice is available here. According to page two of the union’s cover letter:

  • 30.58 percent of your total OEA dues in 2017 were refundable;
  • 30.58 percent of your local association’s dues in 2017 were refundable; and
  • 60.42 percent of your total NEA dues in 2017 were refundable.
Will I get a refund automatically every year?

No. Resigning your formal OEA membership is a one-time event, but as a nonmember you must request your refund annually.

The OEA requires agency fee payers to renew their requests each fall. The union sends a notice each September that outlines the agency fee process and provides a deadline for submitting the requests, usually in early November. Once your request is received, the OEA will typically send your refund check in December.

Is there a deadline?

Yes. To resign your formal OEA membership, the union requires that you give written notice during the month of September. This step is only necessary if you are currently a formal OEA member and are requesting your refund for the first time.

The deadline for existing agency fee payers to request their annual refund is disclosed in the notice sent by the OEA each fall. Last year, it was November 13th. To ensure that you meet both deadlines, it is always best to submit your letter to the OEA during the month of September.

The letter generated by the form above can be used by both first-time and existing agency fee payers.

How do I know the union calculated my refund correctly?

It is possible to challenge the union’s calculation through a process outlined in the union’s notice sent to agency fee payers each year. Unions will schedule an “arbitration” for those challenging the calculation at which some of the evidence used to calculate the refund will be disclosed.

If I stop paying the full amount of dues to the union, will I still receive the same wages and benefits specified in the OEA's contract with my district?

Yes. The OEA has arranged to be the “exclusive representative” of its bargaining units, meaning it is impossible for employees to get out of the terms of the contract, even if they cease paying the full amount of dues. 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 and conditions of employment are all set by the contract and will remain unchanged whether you pay full union dues or only the representation fee.

Will the union stop helping me with workplace issues if I pay only the workplace representation fee?

The union has been recognized by the state as the “exclusive representative” of all members of the bargaining unit, whether formal union members or not. In return for the monopoly on this particular service, unions have a corresponding legal duty to provide fair representation.

Will I lose access to the NEA’s liability insurance?

Most school districts provide legal liability protection for their employees. However, the National Education Association (NEA) does carry a supplemental liability policy that you will lose access to as a nonmember.

Check with your district to learn more about your primary source of legal liability protection as an employee. Some teachers choose to replace the union’s supplemental policy with similar liability insurance from independent organizations like Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE), Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), or from an insurance provider.

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

While the terms of the contract will still govern your employment, union officials commonly prohibit nonmembers from participating in internal union affairs, such as attending union meetings, voting for union officers or participating in contract ratification votes. You’ll also likely be ineligible for certain “members only” benefits, such as discounts on additional insurance or deals the union has arranged with businesses, if any. You may no longer receive the union newsletter or similar publications.

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 people opt out of the union?

Many public employees simply do not like being overcharged for workplace representation services.

Others have more specific concerns about the union arrangement. 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 states do not allow unions to force public employees to support them financially. 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.

How does the OEA spend my dues money?

Despite the fact that it represents public employees, the OEA is a private organization with minimal obligations to disclose financial information to members or the public. Although unions representing private employees must file annual reports with the U.S. Department of Labor, unions representing only public employees have no such requirements.

However, as a nonprofit, the OEA is required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to disclose some financial information on its Form 990 tax return. These are public documents and can be found online at sites like the Foundation Center.