Your Legal Rights: Private Sector Employee 

[En español] 

Question: If I work in a Right to Work state, can I resign my union membership and cut off any further dues collections from my salary?

Answer: If you work primarily in a Right to Work state, except on federal property or for a railway or airline, you have a right to resign from union membership and not pay union dues or fees.

Employees who work on federal property may or may not be protected by their state's Right to Work law, depending on specific circumstances. Employees who work for a railway or airline are not protected by Right to Work laws.

In Pattern Makers v. NLRB, 473 U.S. 95 (1985), the United States Supreme Court held that union members have the right to resign their union membership at any time.

Of course, the decision to resign is wholly yours. As a nonmember in a Right to Work state, you have the right to cut off all payments to the union, and you will not be subject to union rules and internal discipline. For example, nonmembers are not subject to union rules against working during a strike. If you are a union member, and you work during a strike, the union could potentially fine you and collect that fine in state court.

If you resign your union membership and revoke your dues check-off authorization, the union would have to continue to represent you fairly and without discrimination in all matters subject to collective bargaining, and you could not be denied any benefits under the labor contract with your employer because of nonmembership.

On the other hand, as a nonmember you would not have the right to vote on ratification of the contract or election of union officers, and there may be benefits provided under the union's constitution and bylaws that are not available to nonmembers. These benefits could include continued participation in a union's members-only retirement plan. (Your participation in an employer-sponsored or jointly-sponsored pension plan provided as an employee benefit cannot be adversely affected by nonmembership in a union.)

In a Right to Work state, you can resign your union membership by simply sending your union a written letter stating that you are resigning effective immediately. You should check your union's constitution and bylaws to see if it has any provision specifying to whom a resignation must be submitted; such requirements have been upheld by the courts and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If you have authorized payroll deduction of union dues and you wish to revoke that authorization, you should also notify the union and your employer that you wish to revoke that authorization. The dues check-off authorization form which you signed may contain a restriction on the period during which it can be revoked; whether that restriction is effective after you resign depends on the exact language of the form. Even if you resign your membership in a Right to Work state, it is possible that you will have to wait until a designated "window period" arrives in order to revoke the dues check-off authorization. Carefully check the language of the specific check-off authorization that you signed, and contact the Foundation if you have any questions about its meaning, or your ability to immediately revoke it in a Right to Work state.

If you decide to resign and revoke your check off authorization, keep copies of your letters for your records. You should send such letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that the union and employer cannot claim that they did not receive them. If your union and/or employer refuses to honor your resignation and/or dues revocation, you should contact the Foundation immediately if you would like assistance.

If your union or employer refuse to allow you to resign, you would be entitled to file an unfair labor practice charge against the refusing party(ies) with your nearest NLRB regional office. However, you should be aware that claims concerning conduct that occurs more than six months prior to the filing of charges may be time-barred, so it is important to pursue claims promptly.

This information is not intended to advocate that you resign from the union or revoke your dues check-off authorization. The intent is simply to explain your legal rights in this type of situation.

Click here if you would like to see a sample union resignation and dues check-off revocation letter.



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