Unions sometimes attempt to impose limitations upon the right of a member to resign.
However, a decision of the Supreme Court in Abood
v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), a Foundation-supported
lawsuit, makes clear that you cannot constitutionally be prevented from
resigning from your union. Some states, but not all, also have statutes
that guarantee educators the right to resign at any time. (Note: Members
of the National Education association (NEA) may have signed membership applications
in which they agree to a limit on when they can resign. It is not settled
whether those agreements are lawful.)
If you work in a Right to Work state, or neither
state law nor the contract between your employer and the union contains
a provision requiring you to join the union or pay union fees, after resigning
you have no obligations whatsoever to the union. (However, if you have signed
a dues deduction authorization, that authorization may contain a limitation
on when it can be revoked.)
If you work in a non-Right to Work state and state law or the contract
does contain a provision requiring you to join the union or pay union fees,
after resigning you would still have to pay union fees (generally called
As a nonmember, you would have a right to object to the amount of the agency
fees and obtain a reduction of your compulsory payments so that they do
not include the part of dues that is used for purposes other than collective
bargaining and contract administration.
The decision to resign is yours alone. In addition to the reduction in
your financial obligations to the union, as a nonmember you would not be
subject to union rules and discipline. 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, 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 or bylaws that are not available
to nonmembers (however, a nonmember cannot be charged a share of the costs
of member-only benefits).
A note on liability insurance. Most
insurance — from liability to supplemental income — the NEA provides its
members can be secured from alternative sources. Both the Association of
American Educators, 27405 Puerta Real, Suite 230, Mission Viejo, CA 92691-6388 (1-800-704-7799) and the Christian Educators Association International,
P.O. Box 41300, Pasadena, CA, 91114-8300 (1-888-798-1124), offer their members
a million dollar liability policy and other insurance that match or exceed
the policies offered by the NEA to its members. You may also want to check
with your school employer. Most schools carry or provide liability coverage
for their teacher employees. Even the NEA Today (10-94), admitted
that "your school district should provide you with primary coverage."
If not, some homeowners or renters insurance may allow you to add a liability
clause to your policy for a nominal fee. NEA’s Educators Employment Liability
Policy only kicks in after any insurance available though the school district,
does not cover intentional wrong-doing, and limits coverage in civil rights
cases to $250,000.00, instead of the advertised $1 million. NEA Today (04-93).
If you would like to see a sample union resignation letter for non-Right
to Work states where state law or the contract requires you to join the
union or pay union fees, click here.
If you would like to see a sample union resignation letter for a Right
to Work state, or where neither state law nor the contract requires
you to join the union or pay union fees, click
here. If you are a teacher (K-12) who works in California and are represented
by the CTA, click here.
You should check your union’s constitution and by-laws to see if they specify
to whom a resignation must be sent.
Although you may wish to include in your objection letter the line that
says your objection is continuing and permanent, some unions will not honor
this and will make you annually renew your objections. The courts have issued
inconsistent decisions on this point.