Written by Tom Steward | September 15, 2018

Instant Pay Raise: How to Leave Your Public Employee Union

Mark Janus and Rebecca Friedrichs will be in the Twin Cities on Monday to discuss their role in the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public employee unions cannot force government workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Tickets to the American Experiment noon forum at the Downtown Minneapolis Hilton remain available.

But anyone interested in a sneak preview of what to expect should check out the column in today’s Star Tribune by American Experiment policy fellow and general counsel Kim Crockett.

It is back-to-school time for teachers and education support professionals (ESPs), but is it back to the union, as well? At the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forcing public employees to fund a union as a condition of employment violated their First Amendment rights. That long-anticipated decision in Janus vs. AFSCME had immediate financial consequences for Minnesota’s public-sector unions and some employees.

Across Minnesota, government employers stopped deducting “fair-share” fees from the paychecks of employees who had previously exercised their right not to join the union. That fee was only supposed to cover the cost of collective bargaining; it was 85 percent of full dues. But the high court said that collective bargaining itself was political in nature, and thus employees could not be forced to fund it. People like Mark Janus who had exercised their right not to associate with their workplace union got a pay raise.

Yet public employees paying fair-share fees represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

But what about employees who have been paying full union dues? Was there anything in the Janus decision that addressed them?

The court made it clear that employers and unions had to have the affirmative consent of employees before dues are deducted. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said that “states and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees” and that “[n]either an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

The ground rules for opting-in or out of public employee unions will be worked out over time. But the momentum is clearly with employees.

This fight will play out in the courts, state legislatures and probably the streets for the next several years. In the meantime, what are public employees who want to exercise their right to resign from the union supposed to do?

For K-12 teachers and ESPs (paraprofessionals, payroll clerks, lunch room helpers, et al.) who are paying dues to Education Minnesota, there is a seven-day window to resign that runs between Sept. 24 and Sept. 30:

Tom Steward

Tom Steward is a Government Accountability Reporter at Center of the American Experiment.
[email protected]

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