HAS THE UNION REFUSED TO STOP YOUR PAYROLL DEDUCTION?
In 2017, when union executives recognized that the Supreme Court was likely to end their ability to force public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, some started schemes to lock people into dues payment obligations.
Unions like SEIU, AFSCME, and Teamsters have redesigned their membership forms to include language stating that the obligation to pay dues is “irrevocable” once someone signs up. The only way to cancel dues deductions, according to these forms, is by submitting a cancellation request during narrow, annual escape periods, some as short as only a few days.
People were incentivized, pressured and deceived into signing these forms as union executives grew panicked about having to earn business after the court struck down the forced-payment business model.
If any other business used these practices, an Attorney General would sue for consumer protection violations, but unions are exempt from these kinds of laws.
If you signed one of these dues deduction forms, you should know . . .
The U.S. Supreme Court held in Janus v. AFSCME that mandatory union payments and complex opt-out schemes violate public workers’ First Amendment rights of free speech and free association. Thus, before any payments can be made to a union, a public employee must clearly and affirmatively consent to the payments by voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waiving their right to not subsidize a union’s agenda.
The Court said unions and employers could not collect money . . .
…unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay. By agreeing to pay, nonmembers are waiving their First Amendment rights, and such a waiver cannot be presumed. Rather, to be effective, the waiver must be freely given and shown by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence. Unless employees clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them, this standard cannot be met.
Those who were tricked, enticed or pressured to sign an irrevocable wage garnishment have not properly waived their First Amendment right – especially those who signed before Janus was decided.
State employees in Washington, Oregon and California have filed lawsuits to strike down unions’ irrevocable dues payment scheme.
The furthest case along is Belgau et al., v. Inslee, et al., which may be on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This lawsuit against the Washington Federation of State Employee’s union (WFSE) and their cooperating employer, the Governor of the State of Washington, could set a precedent that “irrevocable” union dues deductions are unconstitutional.
There have been some recent victories for public employees seeking to end union restrictions on dues cancellation.
Unfortunately, the wheels of justice move slowly. Decisions and appeals will require many months before public employees might have a chance to be repaid money that was wrongfully collected.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF THE UNION REFUSES TO END YOUR DEDUCTION
First, make the union document why.
If you need help finding your union’s contact information, contact us.
Insist on receiving:
- An explanation of why the union won’t cease dues deductions.
- A copy of any membership agreement they claim that you signed. Double check that there is a signature on the form and that it is actually yours.
- Instructions on what they expect you to do before the unwanted dues deductions stops.
If the union ignores your repeated attempts to contact union representatives and/or requests for any documentation, maintain a record of your repeated attempts.
Contact our legal team if the union ignores your repeated requests for a copy of any agreement you allegedly signed which authorizes dues deductions or if the union never responds at all.
Second, inform your employer that you have withdrawn consent for the deduction.
Some employers recognize the liability they incur when they ignore workers Constitutional rights. The court found “States [i.e., employers] and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from non-consenting employees.”
Your employer has the right to end your deduction since a union contract does not supersede the U.S. Constitution. Let your employer know that they do not have the Court-required “clear and affirmative consent” to take your money. Some employers have refused to bow to union pressure and ended deductions without waiting for the union’s permission.
A letter you could use for this purpose is here.
Third, let the OptOutToday legal team know.
If the union refuses to end your dues deductions in spite of your letter, join our growing list of those who seek justice. Assemble your documentation, for it may aid in securing a refund for money wrongfully taken since the date you opted out of the union.
Then send a note to our Legal Team
Or mail to:
Opt Out Today
PO Box 552
Olympia, WA 98507
Be sure to provide
- Your complete contact information
- The date you sent a letter opting out of the union
- The union and employer who have declined to end your deduction
- Explanation and, if possible, the documentation of the correspondence to and from the union and your employer on the subject.
Fourth, resubmit the demand to end dues deduction at the union-directed time
Litigation could take more than a year, so take steps to end your deduction as soon as the union’s arbitrary limitations allow. Carefully check the fine print that the union provided about any window during which they will allow you to cancel. Often it is 45 days before the anniversary of the date you signed their membership form.
- Prepare the letter and put the first acceptable submission date on your calendar. If necessary, use the website OptOutToday.com to create the letter or resubmit a version you previously created.
- Make two extra copies of your signed resignation letter.
- Mail the objection form with your original signature to the union via certified mail with a recipient signature required.
- Maintain the receipt and documentation of your mailing given to you by the post office.
- Send one copy of the signed objection form to your employer, preferably via email or some other method that can be recorded.
- Maintain the second copy of the signed objection form in your own records. Write on your copy of the resignation letter the date you mailed the original to the union and the date you sent the objection form to your employer.
- Contact your employer and union one week later to confirm receipt.
- Watch your pay stub for the end of the deduction. If it does not stop, contact us.
Fifth, help your colleagues
The union’s practice of tricking employees into signing irrevocable payment schemes only works if people don’t read the fine print. Union operatives are still circulating these entrapment membership forms to people who are already members to lock them into payment obligations. Even those who support the union would appreciate the advice to read the fine print of these documents.
Finally, some who are very angry at unwanted wage garnishment have decided to make sure that the union does not profit from this scheme. They are finding other union members and inviting them also to opt out of dues payment. The union might be able to collect dues for another five or ten months using the opt-out window scheme, but energizing someone to help five or ten more like-minded colleagues to resign costs the union much more in the long run.
A blank resignation form you may print and distribute may be found here.
Even easier is to refer them to the appropriate union page at OptOutToday.com.