Congratulations on being employed in a Right to Work (“RTW”) state. Click here to see all 25 RTW states. Coverage under the RTW law will be phased in over time, depending on the specific situation at your workplace. The new RTW law does not apply to or invalidate existing collective bargaining agreements or contracts entered into on or before March 14, 2012.
Summary of Your Rights
1. Indiana’s RTW law allows you to stop financially supporting an unwanted union. It gives you the choice whether to join, or remain a member of, a union, or pay union dues, fees, assessments or other charges. It’s your choice, not the union’s or your employer’s.
2. The RTW law only applies when your existing bargaining contract expires or is modified, renewed or extended after March 14, 2012. If your current, pre-March 15, 2012, contract contains a clause requiring union membership or payment of dues, that requirement will continue until the contract expires or is modified, renewed or extended.
3. While waiting for your bargaining contract to expire or be modified, you have the right to resign your union membership and pay only the portion of union dues that is spent on bargaining-related activities. You can immediately stop supporting and paying for the union’s political and other nonbargaining activities. You can do this now.
Detailed Explanation of Your Rights
Q: What does the new Indiana Right to Work (“RTW”) law do?
A: It frees you from having to join or financially support a labor union as a condition of employment. Most private-sector employees in Indiana covered by a union bargaining contract will eventually be protected by Indiana’s RTW law, once their existing contract is modified, renewed or extended after March 14, 2012. Click here to see the actual language of the law, which is being phased in as contracts expire or are modified.
Q: How will I know when the RTW law will protect me?
A: Check the expiration date of your current contract. If your bargaining unit does not have a contract in effect on March 15, 2012, then Indiana’s RTW law protects you immediately on that date, and no subsequent contract can require you to be a member or pay any dues or fees to the union. If your current contract expires after March 14, then after it expires, no subsequent or renewed contract can require you to be a union member or pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping your job.
Q: Are all Indiana employees covered by the RTW law?
A: No. Although Indiana’s RTW law applies to most private-sector workers, it does not apply to employees of airlines, railroads, those working on property subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction, or government employees. Although railroad and airline employees and those working on exclusive federal enclaves cannot be required to join a union, they may be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. If you are an airline or railroad employee, click here for an explanation of your rights. If you work on federal property for a private-sector employer and do not know whether the property is subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction, call the Foundation at 1-800-336-3600 for further information.
Q: Do any government employees have Right to Work protection?
A: Yes, many do. Although Indiana’s RTW law does not apply to government employees, in fact, federal employees, most state employees, some local safety employees (police and firefighters), and all certificated public school employees (teachers) already have Right to Work protection from other existing laws. To see the actual language of these statutory protections, federal employees click here; state employees click here (Ind. Code 4-15-17-5(4)).; police and firefighters click here (Ind. Code 36-8-22-8(c)); teachers click here (Ind. Code 20-29-4-2(a)).
Q: If the current contract in my bargaining unit was entered into on or before March 14, 2012, is there anything I can do now to reduce the amount of dues I am forced to pay the union?
A: Yes. Because Indiana’s RTW law will take a few years to become fully effective, many employees will not be able to cut off all dues immediately. However, all employees can still exercise their legal rights to refrain from formal union membership, and cut off union dues being spent on politics and other nonbargaining activities, and pay an amount less than full union dues. Of course, the decision to resign and/or object is wholly yours. For more on your general rights as a private-sector employee click here, but follow the directions here for your specific rights as a private-sector employee in Indiana.
Q: What happens if I resign my membership in the union?
A: You may not be able to participate in union elections or meetings, vote in collective bargaining ratification elections, or participate in other “internal” union activities. However, as a nonmember, you cannot be disciplined by the union for any post-resignation conduct. Furthermore, nonmembers are not subject to union rules, including those against working during a strike. (If you are a union member, and you work during a strike, the union could potentially fine you and sue you to collect that fine in state court.)
Even as a nonmember, you are still fully covered by the bargaining contract negotiated between your employer and the union, and the union remains obligated to represent you. Any benefits that are provided to you by your employer pursuant to the bargaining contract (e.g., wages, seniority, vacations, pension, and health insurance) will not be affected by your resignation. However, if the union offers some “members-only” benefits, you might be excluded from receiving those, including continued participation in a union’s members-only retirement plan. (Participation in an employer-sponsored or jointly-sponsored pension plan provided as an employee benefit cannot be adversely affected by nonmembership in a union.)
Q: How can I resign my membership in the union?
A: Send the union a written letter stating that you are resigning effective immediately. The union may assert that resignations must be submitted only during a specified time period. That is untrue, because such limitations on the right to resign were held unlawful by the United States Supreme Court. 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 (“NRLB”). For more on your general rights to resign your union membership, click here, but follow the directions and use the suggested letters here for your specific right to resign your union membership in Indiana.
Q: How can I stop paying for the union’s political and other nonbargaining activities?
A: Until the RTW law becomes effective for you, you can assert your right, as a nonmember, not to pay for the union’s political and other nonbargaining activities by notifying the union in writing that you object to the use of your money for purposes other than collective bargaining and contract administration. You should check with the union to see if it has a policy concerning when and to whom objections by nonmembers of the union fees should be submitted. For more on your general rights to object to the payment of dues for politics and other nonbargaining activities, click here, but follow the directions and use the suggested letters here.
Q: What if I’m paying my dues directly to the union and not through payroll deduction?
A: Click here for a sample letter to use to resign your union membership and object to paying full dues. Once Indiana’s RTW law becomes effective for you, you should stop paying the union dues or fees directly to the union.
Q: What if I’m paying my dues through payroll deduction?
A: You should not only resign from union membership and object to paying full dues, but you should also notify your employer that your previous authorization should be considered an authorization for only the deduction of the portion of dues that is lawfully chargeable to an objecting nonmember. Your employer should follow your directions immediately, assuming you have also notified the union. Click here for a sample letter.
Q: What do I need to do once Indiana’s RTW law become effective for me?
A: As a nonmember, you then have the right to cut off all payments to the union. You may become a nonmember simply by resigning your union membership. If you remain a voluntary union member, Indiana’s RTW law does not prohibit you from being required to pay full dues as a condition of voluntary membership in the union. If you resign but previously authorized payroll deduction of union dues or fees, you will need to revoke that authorization by notifying both the union and your employer in writing that you are revoking your authorization for automatic dues check off.
Q: How do I stop payroll deduction of dues when the RTW law becomes effective for me?
A: The dues check-off authorization form that you signed may contain a restriction on the period during which it can be revoked. Even if you become or are a nonmember when Indiana’s RTW law becomes effective for you, the union may claim that you will have to wait until a designated “window period” arrives in order to revoke or stop the dues check-off authorization. In other words, the union might claim that the language in the check-off authorization you signed is binding even after Indiana’s RTW law is in effect for you. Whether those restrictions apply after Indiana’s RTW law becomes effective for you depends on the exact language of the form. Carefully check the language of the check-off authorization that you signed, which you can get from your union and/or employer, and be sure to call the Foundation at 1-800-336-3600 and consult with one of our Staff Attorneys if you have any doubts or your employer does not stop your dues deductions within 30 days of your written revocation.
Q: If I decide to resign or not join a union and/or stop paying dues or fees, does the bargaining contract still apply to me?
A: Yes. As a nonmember of the union, you still remain a member of the bargaining unit and any applicable or new bargaining contract continues to apply to you. The only difference under Indiana’s RTW law is that the new contract cannot require you to join or pay dues to the union as a condition of employment. For example, eligibility for any benefits provided by the contract continues even for bargaining unit employees who resign their union membership.
Q: Can someone sue if Indiana’s RTW law is violated?
A: Yes. Individuals injured because of an actual or threatened violation of the law may bring a civil action in state court. A successful plaintiff can recover one or more of the following: 1) the actual and consequential damages resulting from the violation or threatened violation, such as union dues wrongfully withheld or lost wages; 2) liquidated damages, not to exceed $1,000; 3) declaratory and/or injunctive relief; and 4) attorneys’ fees, litigation costs and expenses.
Q: Does the RTW law change the process to decertify or eliminate the union from the workplace?
A: No. The RTW law does not change the legal process for decertification or elimination of the union from your workplace. That is covered exclusively by federal labor law and the NLRB. For more information on your right to decertify an unwanted union from your workplace, click here.
Q: Does the RTW law affect me if I must obtain work through a union hiring hall?
A: That is a complicated question. First, you cannot be required to join a union to obtain work from an employer that has agreed to hire only employees referred from a union hiring hall. Second, an exclusive union hiring hall cannot discriminate against employees because of their nonmembership in the union. Third, whether you can be forced to pay compulsory union fees to obtain employment through an exclusive hiring hall in a Right to Work state is a disputed and complicated question of law. Click here for more information about your rights if you must use an exclusive union hiring hall to obtain work.
Q: Where can I turn to get help or answers in exercising my rights under the RTW law?
A: You may contact the Foundation at 1-800-336-3600 or click here if you have any questions about your ability to immediately resign, object to paying full dues, and revoke your check-off authorization when Indiana’s RTW law becomes effective for you. The Foundation has established a legal task force to assist Indiana employees in taking full advantage of Indiana’s RTW law. We know that many questions and issues will arise as the law is fully phased-in for each worker.
Q: Is there a sample letter that I can use to claim my rights under the RTW law?
A: Yes. Click here for a sample letter to use if you decide to resign, object, and revoke your check-off authorization. Though not legally required, you may want to send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested to both the union and employer, so that neither can claim that it did not receive your letter. If your union and/or employer refuses to honor your resignation, objection, and/or dues deduction revocation, contact the Foundation immediately at 1-800-336-3600 or click here for assistance, because most claims of this type must be filed within six months of the rejection of your resignation, objection and/or revocation.
The Foundation neither encourages nor discourages you from resigning, objecting, revoking your dues check off, or eliminating the union from your workplace. Those decisions are yours alone. The Foundation is simply explaining your legal rights in light of Indiana’s RTW law. To learn about your general rights as a private-sector employee. Click here, but follow the information here for your specific rights as a private-sector employee in Indiana.
Your choices are protected by federal labor law and Indiana’s RTW law. If you have any questions, or feel that your legal rights need to be protected, please call the Foundation at 1-800-336-3600 or click here.