Request a Dues Refund
If you are an employee in one of the twenty-eight non-right-to-work states1, you may be forced to join a union and contribute part of your pay as union dues. Dues collected by your union are typically split two ways. One part of these dues, known as an “Agency Fee,” is used to cover the union’s administrative costs. The other part is called a “Political Fee” which is used to advance the union’s political, social and economic agendas. These imposed fees are used to support lobbying activities, make donations to political candidates, purchase advertising space and air time, pay for organizing activities targeted at other employers, and are given to other groups, such as ACORN, that promise to push the union’s liberal issues, however creatively.
Many of the workers in these closed-shop states may believe that these fees are mandatory; however, under federal law2, each one has a right to object and request a refund of these political fees from the union. In 1988, the United States Supreme Court recognized each worker’s right to object to paying political fees and to request a refund3. Under CWA v. Beck, the union cannot keep the dues or fees it collects from you which are for activities unrelated to your bargaining unit’s representation. The union cannot take money out of your paycheck and spend it on activities such as organizing the employees of other employers, lobbying for labor legislation, and participating in social, charitable, and political events. If you object, you are entitled to a refund. Depending on which state you live in, you may have a specific window period in which to make your objection and you also may have to renew your objection each year. Ask your union if these limits exist in your state.
When you raise your objection, you will not lose any employer-provided benefits. You will continue to be covered by the collective bargaining process and you will get the same pay, same raises, same health coverage and same pension benefits your employer provides to its other unionized employees.
To request a refund, the process is simple. You simply write the union telling them of your objection and requesting a refund. Feel free to use language similar to the sample letter found here.
1The twenty-eight States where union membership is compulsory are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
2National Labor Relations Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964
3Communications Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988).