Opt Out Today

UTLA

United Teachers Los Angeles

Collecting dues from 35,000 educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

How Teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District Can Opt Out of a Portion of 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 UTLA 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.

If you object to UTLA overcharging you for workplace representation, you may request the reduction by filling out the form below.

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. Send a signed copy of your letter to:

Opt Out Today
PO Box 6683
Fullerton, CA 92834

Our legal department will submit it to the union on your behalf and will be able to assist with any follow-up required. Keep a copy of the letter for your reference.

  • We will not contact you unless you choose to receive updates from us

FAQs

What should I expect next?

Some acknowledgement should be received within a few weeks.

Because dues collection is the core of the union business model, most people who seek the refund or dues reduction will get a sales pitch to talk them out of it. Sometimes the sales pitch includes untrue claims and scare tactics. Ask to have any questionable claims documented in writing.

Watch for the dues reduction or refund check. Contact the union if nothing happens.

All fee payers are to receive an accounting of how the union spends money which shows what is spent on workplace services and what is spent on extraneous things (called “nonchargeable” expenditures). If you do not receive this within a year, ask for it.

UTLA has started an “all in” drive asking members to recommit “to our union by signing a new membership card.” The reason for this is to trick members into signing an “irrevocable” pledge promising never to resign except during a small window of time on an annual basis. If this is claimed in your case, ask for documentation that you ever signed such a contract, and contact Opt Out Today if you are blocked from resigning.

Remember, you are being charged a fee for the union-calculated cost of services. You are entitled to those services – help with contract enforcement, grievances, discipline assistance and other workplace representation.

How much less will I pay?

The refund amount varies as the union’s spending on politics and nonessential activities changes from year to year. Those who opt out and pay only the agency fee get approximately a 30% refund.  A year’s refund for a full time teacher typically ranges from $250 to $400.

The U.S. Supreme Court and California law require unions to document to those paying less how it calculated the reduced agency fee the union collects from them. Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986).

Why can’t public employees opt out of all dues and fees?

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.

UTLA also acknowledges the right to pay only a lesser agency fee in the collective bargaining agreement Article IV.4.1.

“As tonon-members who object to UTLA spending their agency fees on matters unrelated to collective bargaining and contract administration, the amount of agency fee charged shall not reflect expenditures which the courts or PERB have determined to be non-chargeable, including political contributions to candidates and parties, members-only benefits, charitable contributions and ideological expenditures and, to the extent provided by law, shall not reflect expenditures for certain aspects of lobbying, ballot measures, publications, organizing and litigation.”

A new case, Janus v. AFSCME, is expected to receive a ruling in June 2018.

If the court sides with workers and against the union enterprise, those who have opted out of the union will no longer be obligated to pay a fee set by the union. Instead, they can pay what they wish to whichever office of the union serves them.

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 a union 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 or making their own contract deal with the employer. In return for a monopoly on representing employees in your bargaining unit, unions must accept 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. 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 ensures 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; UTLA has allowed their financial interests to motivate them to create a cumbersome and unfair process including an “opt-out” window for those who signed the most recent “recommit” cards.

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 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. The union may stop sending the union newsletter or similar publications.

How does the union 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 UTLA’s 990 tax return to be a public document, and these can be found online at sites like this. UTLA files forms under the Employee Identification Number (EIN) 95-2635019 and shows income of roughly $40 million in 2015.

Those represented by UTLA also pay several affiliated organizations:

  • California Teachers Association,
  • National Education Association,
  • American Federation of Teachers, and
  • the AFL-CIO/affiliates.

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.

If I opt out, will I still have legal liability protection?

It is the school district’s responsibility to shield district employees from legal liability, not the union’s. Sometimes the collective bargaining agreement specifically requires the district to provide liability protection for employees. Check your union contract for details regarding any district-provided protection. Also contact the district business office if you want to learn how your primary liability protection is provided.

UTLA is affiliated with the NEA and AFT which maintain a low-cost legal liability policy for their legal bills on behalf of members that supplements the protection already provided by your employer. Nonmembers are not covered by this liability policy.

If you feel more protection is necessary, similar liability insurance can be obtained through other independent professional education associations like the Association of American Educators (AAE), Christian Educators Association International, a homeowner’s policy, or from an insurance provider.

Will the union exclude me from workplace decisions?

UTLA will not allow bargaining unit members who pay for workplace representation to participate in decisions like contract votes or strike votes. This is unfair, but since they technically have no state law 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. PEU Local 1 / AFSCME secured the privilege of representing employees many years ago with few if any 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. No reason is required.

Most who believe the union arrangement is not a good fit have more specific concerns. They may find the union’s one-size-fits-all agenda does not serve them well because they are new to the profession, have a specialty that’s 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 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.

What about the Janus v. AFSCME court decision?

Public-sector union activities – including negotiating with government – potentially violate the First Amendment rights of workers being 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.

The public employees’ argument is that the entire system of a union speaking for all employees on the governance of their public employer is ultimately political and thus is compelled political speech in violation of the First Amendment.

A ruling is expected in June 2018.

If the court sides with workers and against the union enterprise, those who have opted out of the union will no longer be obligated to pay a fee set by the union. Instead, they can pay what they wish to whichever office of the union serves them.

Can I get additional copies of the form to resign?

Referring people to the form above is the easiest way, but a generic form is available here.