Since the Janus v. AFSCME ruling in June 2018, many public sector workers have asked us what their daily representation would be like if they resigned from the union. Here are two important things to note:
1. Under current state law, your union is still required to represent you.
Under the Public Employee Relations Act, a public sector union such as AFSCME, SEIU, UFCW, or PSEA is the “exclusive bargaining representative” of all government employees in a workplace. That means the union is the only official mediator on labor contract issues for all workers in a bargaining unit that it represents, union and non-union members alike. The union remains your representative and legally cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your status as a nonmember.
Before Janus, non-members were required to pay agency fees as a condition of employment even if that employee disagreed with the political activities of the union. The Janus decision established that it is a free speech violation to force a state or municipal employee to join or pay fees to a labor union. Simply put, these fees force government employees to support the political positions that unions advocate.
2. If you are not satisfied with your union representation, you and your coworkers could change it.
Workplaces that have local, independent unions unconnected with the state and national union reproduce all the same services of the major unions without the middleman or large overhead costs. For example, the Roscommon Teachers’ Association in Michigan cut ties with the NEA in 2012 and was promptly able to reduce union dues from $980 to $600 per teacher per year. The union uses its dues to keep a labor attorney on retainer to handle workplace issues and grievances. Employees who resign from the union can opt to reconstitute as a local-only union and recreate the same kind of collective services.
Without a local-only union, workers may opt to pool their money and hire their own labor attorney for day-to-day representation, but your collective bargaining agreement may prohibit such an avenue.