On Thursday, July 26, two public-sector unions in Maine and Minnesota granted a member’s demand to immediately cancel union membership and cease withholding union dues without having to wait until the designated “opt-out” period.
The union’s decision comes as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME in June, which protects the First Amendment rights of public employees by no longer requiring them to pay to a union as a condition of employment. The ruling cancels a union’s ability to compel membership and collect agency fees from nonmember public employees.
Agency fees require nonunion members to pay a union for their share of representation costs in collective bargaining and contract administration matters. At the time of the Janus ruling, 22 states, including Maine, required nonunion public employees to pay agency fees. In addition, most unions do not allow its members to cancel membership at any time they choose. Instead, workers must wait until the designated opt-out period established by the union. Under Janus, however, public employees now have the right to leave their union at any time they choose.
The Buckeye Institute, representing Minnesota State University Moorhead professor Boyd Bradbury and University of Maine Machias associate economics professor Jonathan Reisman, sent demand letters on behalf of their clients requesting immediate dismissal from their unions. Under Janus, the public-sector unions had to accept their employee’s requests, and could not force them to wait until the designated opt-out period or follow any other opt-out rules or procedures.
“We are very pleased that unions recognize that they have no choice but to comply with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which protects the First Amendment rights of public employees and applies not just to agency-fee payers, but to all union members,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute and a lead attorney for both Bradbury and Reisman.
According to The Buckeye Institute, Bradbury’s union previously required its members to submit written opt-out notices between April 1 and June 15, and could not officially leave the union until the following July. The opt-out window for Reisman was no earlier than August 15 and no later than September 15. Both professors have now resigned from their unions and can no longer have dues extracted from their paychecks.
“By abandoning the kind of opt-out regime that was explicitly rejected by the Supreme Court in Janus, the Inter Faculty Organization in Minnesota and the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine have taken an important first step for all other public-sector unions to follow, Alt said. “Our clients should not have needed to send a demand letter to secure their rights. After Janus, public-sector unions should seek affirmative consent from their members — an ‘opt-in’ — before any further dues or fees are taken by the union.”
“If unions fail to secure the affirmative consent of their members, public employees who do not wish to financially support their unions should follow the lead of Professors Bradbury and Reisman and demand that their unions stop withholding dues immediately.”
Any public-sector employee who wishes to resign from their union is encouraged to use the opt-out form established by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s My Pay My Say, a national education and awareness campaign to support public employees affected by the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.