Union Bosses Forced to Drop Threats against Employee Exercising Right to Resign from Union Membership
Federal court suit forces Alaska union officials to drop demands that state employee be fired
Anchorage, Alaska (June 20, 2008) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, an Alaska state employee has reached a favorable settlement with union officials and state administrators who threatened his termination after he asserted his right to resign from union membership. When Robert Hunsick informed officials from Alaska State Employees Association, Local 52 (ASEA) of his decision to resign from the union, union brass improperly demanded that he continue to pay full union dues or be fired.
Hunsick filed suit in United States District Court on May 19, causing ASEA lawyers to scramble to avoid a costly and embarrassing court battle with Foundation attorneys. ASEA union officials were unlawfully seizing and spending a portion of his forced dues for political and ideological purposes.
In the Foundation-won Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously established due process safeguards to ensure that employees are not compelled to subsidize union activities beyond what union officials can prove is spent on collective bargaining. Hunsick resigned his formal union membership and asked ASEA officials to provide him a statement breaking down the union’s expenditures, verified by an independent auditor. Hudson also requires that union officials provide the employee who chooses to refrain from union membership an opportunity to challenge the amount of the fee.
But ASEA union boss Jim Duncan told Hunsick that he could only resign his formal union membership in a union-designated 30-day window every June. Eventually, ASEA officials accepted Hunsick’s resignation, but union officials then still failed to provide him with a proper breakdown of union dues to prove that the amount they demanded was not paying for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union politics, lobbying or member-only activities.
When Hunsick insisted on such a breakdown, as guaranteed under Hudson, union officials persisted in demanding that he pay up or be fired, a demand they only dropped as part of the settlement. Under the other terms of the settlement, the ASEA agreed to refund Hunsick all fees deducted from his wages, plus interest, from his initial resignation in December and waived its claim for any such fees not paid.
Alaska is one of 28 states without Right to Work protections that ensure employees are not forced to pay any union dues as a condition of employment. Hunsick’s struggle against ASEA demonstrates the chasm between Alaska’s compulsory unionism laws and its tradition of rugged individualism.
“This settlement is a small victory for employee freedom,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “But as long as state laws compel workers like Robert Hunsick to support unions against their will, true freedom remains lost in the wilderness.”