Workplace Freedom: What You Need to Know

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that it was unconstitutional for pubic sector unions to collect “agency fees” — in Vermont, up to 85% of union membership dues — from employees who chose not to join a union. So, what does this mean for you?

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Q & A

I am not sure what union I am in. How can I find out?

Your collective bargaining agreement (union contract) will include a “Recognition” section, generally at or near the beginning. That section will specify the union.

How can I find my union contract?

Your HR department will generally be able to provide you with a copy. If not, your shop steward or union representative should provide you with one.

I am a teacher or other public-sector employee, how does the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME affect me?

In that decision the Supreme Court ruled that collective bargaining agreements requiring bargaining unit members to pay agency fees to the union violate your first amendment right to freedom of speech. This means that the union no longer has the right to collect fees from employees who are covered by its contract but do not wish to be members of the union.

How do I notify my government union that I have decided to withdraw my membership?

The process for withdrawing your membership in your union is typically set by the union in it’s bylaws or other internal rules. You may need to contact your local union rep to find the answer in your specific case.  In some cases your HR may be able to tell you.

What happens to those workers who are happy with their unions and want their unions to remain in place for their workplaces?

Employees who wish to remain members of their union are unaffected by the decision. Removing a union from the workplace, called decertification, is a different process overseen by the Vermont Labor Relations Board. More information may be found at https://vlrb.vermont.gov/sites/vlrb/files/documents/Rules%20of%20Practice/Part%201/part1.htm section 13.4.

What if I withdraw from my union now, but later change my mind and wish to re-join my union?

The process for joining each union is set out in their internal rules, so you may need to consult your local union rep or HR to find out the specifics in your case.

Does the United States Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME make Vermont a right-to-work state?

No. “Right to Work” states have laws in place that protect employees who work in the private sector in the same way that the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling protects public sector employees. Although 28 states have laws protecting private sector employees, Vermont does not.

I work in the private sector and am a member of a union. Does this decision affect me in any way or grant me the ability to choose whether to join or withdraw from my union?

No. The Janus decision only affects public sector employees. The decision whether to join a union or not is up to each bargaining unit member. The National Labor Relations Act gives every employee in the private sector the right to support or oppose forming a union, but at this time the laws of Vermont still allow private sector unions to force non-members to pay mandatory fees.

How does the ruling in Janus v. AFSCME impact collective bargaining?

The Janus decision makes it illegal for employers and unions to require non-members to pay union fees. Nearly all collective bargaining agreements include provisions that if any part of the agreement is found to be unlawful, the rest of the agreement stands.  So under most circumstances it would be as if the part of the contract that required fees from non-members simply disappeared, leaving the rest untouched.

I had previously chosen to stop paying union membership dues already and am currently paying only agency fees. Do I still need to take any extra steps now?

Collecting agency fees became unlawful when the Supreme Court issued their Janus decision. If your union is still collecting agency fees, please contact us here [link to form or email?].

Why should unions provide services to people who don’t pay for them?

When a union spends the time and effort to organize a new bargaining unit and wins an election among the employees, the union becomes the “exclusive representative” for all the employees in the bargaining unit, even the ones who opposed the union and voted against it. Those employees who oppose the union have no choice under law but to work under the union contract. Because the union fought to form a union despite their opposition, the law requires the union to represent them.

Can I be fired for not paying membership dues or fees to a public-sector union?

No. The Janus decision makes it unlawful to collect mandatory fees from bargaining unit employees. Those parts of the collective bargaining agreement essentially don’t exist any longer.

Will I lose my seniority if I choose to leave the union?

No. Unions cannot use work rules to punish non-members by stripping them of seniority.

I am a teacher. Will I need to purchase liability insurance if I choose to leave my union?

Yes, if you are required to carry liability insurance and you have been getting that through the union you will need to find the coverage outside the union. The Association of American Educators, for example, offers liability insurance without a union.

I am a teacher. Is there a way I can financially support only my local union, but still withdraw from the national union?

Generally no. Membership rules for unions typically create a system where no one has the ability to support only one level of the union. Your dues or fee dollar is split between the local, state or region, and national union.

If you would like more information on Workplace Freedom issues,
CLICK HERE.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ralph johnson March 3, 2019 at 11:38 pm

What constitutes a public sector job? Public transit non profit state run for example?

Reply

Rob March 4, 2019 at 12:39 am

State employees, municipal employees, and teachers. If you are covered by a public sector collective bargaining agreement.

Reply

Sean Galvin March 5, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Does this mean the VSEA will refund my payments. I had withdrawn from the union when they failed to represent my group. Then they started taking fees and I was told there is nothing I could do about it.

Reply

Rob March 5, 2019 at 5:31 pm

Hi Sean, After Janus the union can no longer charge you agency fees. They are not doing so now, are they?

Reply

Sean Galvin March 5, 2019 at 5:05 pm

So is the VSEA going to return the money they took from me when I wanted out of the union?

Reply

Rob March 5, 2019 at 5:33 pm
Neil A Gerdes March 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm

So, will you give back the raises they got for you? I’m guessing no.

Unions made this country great.

Reply

Neil A Gerdes March 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm

EAI supports union busting, there’s a shocker.

Reply

Rob March 15, 2019 at 7:13 pm

There’s no “union busting” involved here. People are able (and should be able) to join a union if they so desire. But, if for some reason one does not wish to join a union, it is not fair, let alone Constitutional, to compel someone to join or support a union financially. Do you really think forcing someone to give money to a union against their will is fair?

Reply

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