The truth about rights outside of union membership
Many Minnesota educators exercised their freedom of choice on union membership in September. It is important educators are given accurate information regarding what impact their union membership decision can and cannot have. They are most likely not going to get this information from the union, so with the help of the Association of American Educators, below are rights all public educators have.
- Your employer cannot discriminate against you based on your union membership status. Belonging to a union is voluntary. It is illegal for a school district or other employer to discriminate against you for exercising your right to not belong to a union. It is also illegal for the union to retaliate or discriminate against employees who exercise their constitutional right not to join or support the union.
- The terms of the negotiated agreement apply to you regardless of your union membership status. Because the union fought for and won the role as the exclusive bargaining agent, it must represent both members and non-members in good faith. The terms of the negotiated agreement (including salary, health insurance, work place conditions, pay raises, seniority, tenure, promotions, etc.) apply to all employees in the bargaining unit regardless of their union membership status.
- You have the right to join a union. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Janus v. AFSCME in June 2018, nothing in the decision prohibited teachers and other public employees from being a voluntary member of a union.
- You cannot be required to join a union. Union membership has been voluntary since 1974 when “closed shops” (places of employment where membership was required) were outlawed.
- Non-members cannot be required to pay union dues or fees. Thanks to the Janus v. AFSCME decision, teachers and all other public employees are no longer required to financially support a union outside of union membership—prior to the decision, non-members, or formerly known as agency fee payers, were required to pay 85 percent of member dues. Current union members who choose to leave the union will not be required to pay dues after they have left.
- You have the right to join a professional association. The union nor any public employer can forbid a public educator from joining a professional association. For teachers, these associations offer liability insurance and other job protection benefits, along with legal assistance and professional development opportunities.
- You have employment rights regardless of your union membership status. Public educators do not forfeit their right to private counsel to address workplace issues. This includes but is not limited to legal support to individually pursue a grievance (without union support), legal action to address wrongful termination, class action lawsuits, wage and hour claims, hostile work environment, harassment in the workplace, bullying claims, assault, battery, emotional distress claims and more. Some professional associations provide legal services or funds for private counsel.
- You have the right to a representative at a disciplinary meeting. Weingarten Rights protect an individual employee’s right to bring a representative to a disciplinary meeting. This could include a union representative, non-union association representative, pastor, attorney, colleague, family member, etc.
- The Janus ruling applies to all public employees in unionized workplaces, not just agency-fee payers.
The Janus decision was clear: public unions can only collect dues from public employees who affirmatively and clearly consent to membership. Non-membership without financial penalty is now an option for all public employees. If you are a public employee who has not affirmatively and clearly consented to dues deductions from your paycheck post-Janus, please reach out to EmployeeFreedomMN or EducatedTeachersMN so we can help you exercise your Janus rights.
- The Janus ruling does not prohibit unions from offering local-only or contract-only membership categories.
While unions can no longer collect partial dues from non-members (“agency fees”), they are not prohibited from offering an “agency fee” membership category to voluntary members interested in local-only or contract-only membership. In Minnesota, the teachers’ union requires local, state, and national dues for members, but unions could change what they charge members and how they limit membership benefits. This means the union could fix the “free rider” claims it makes against the very public employees it fought to represent.