As a state employee, Jason Kohute quickly discovered that being a union member did not guarantee representation, honest interactions with union representatives, or transparency about how unions spend his membership dues.
When a conflict arose at work, which involved a bedbug infestation in the workplace, he and a colleague asked his union representative for assistance. Instead of offering help, his local AFSCME Council 13 union representative spent half of the meeting discussing “detailed instructions on who not to vote for …in the upcoming election, while ignoring the issue that matter the most to us.”
Jason became concerned with the union’s “heavy-handed political agenda,” which made him feel that he was not welcome in the union ranks. After that meeting, Jason started to reconsider the value of being a dues-paying union member.
Although he won the case and the bedbug issue was resolved, Jason researched more about unions, and he came away with the belief that union membership was not beneficial to him. One major takeaway from his research was that only a small amount of his monthly dues was going to his local union, while the majority ended up with the national union, which was not as transparent about how it spends membership dues. He found that AFSCME Council 13 “only spends a fraction of the dues it collects on employee representation” while “much of the rest goes to administrative costs and political activity.”
Unlike many public employees, Jason also knew that he had the right to leave the union, and thanks to the 2018 Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME, he was able to resign from union membership.
Soon after his resignation, however, Jason ran into other union-related problems. Another workplace issue arose, and because of Pennsylvania law gives unions the sole right to mediate workplace disputes, Jason had to go to the union for help.
It was then that the union misled him into signing paperwork which made him a union member once again and forced him to pay dues. He said, “I wouldn’t have signed it” if he knew what the documents were for. As soon as he realized what happened, Jason tried to resign from the union, but he was told that he would have to be a union member “for up to a full year before I could leave.”
Jason noted that unions have a monopoly in the workplace, “Once a union is certified in a workplace, no other union can represent the employees, and employees can’t represent themselves. Like any other monopoly, unions are taking their customers for granted.”
He believed that union officials ought to be held accountable and be more transparent with how they spend membership dues. “Imagine how much more accountable unions would be to their members if they had to win their vote instead of helping their political friends,” Jason said.