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Who represents me after I opt-out of my union?

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 laws, 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 exclusive representative on labor contract issues for all workers in a bargaining unit; this covers union members and non-members alike. The union remains your exclusive representative and legally cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your status as a nonmember.

Before the Janus decision, 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 teacher, state, or municipal employee to join or pay fees to a labor union.

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 provide the same services that state and national unions offer – without the large overhead costs and political agendas. For example, the Roscommon Teachers’ Association in Michigan cut ties with the NEA in 2012 and was 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.

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