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To download a free quad-fold brochure about your right to opt out of certain union dues or fees, click here (pdf).

Question: How do I cut off the use of my dues for politics and other nonbargaining activities?

[NOTE: You must be a non-member to avail yourself of the rights discussed on this page. If you are currently a member of the union, you must first become a non-member and then object in order to receive your dues rebate or reduction. To learn how to become a non-member, click here.]

Answer: If you work in a Right to Work state, with very few exceptions, you not only have the right to refrain from becoming a union member, you cannot be required to pay dues or an agency fee to the union unless you choose to join the union. Employees who work on federal property and sailors may not be protected by their state’s Right to Work law, depending on specific circumstances.

Click here to see a list of the 28 Right to Work states.

If you do not work in a Right to Work state, you have a right to pay a reduced fee to the union if you are not a union member and you have sent a letter to the union objecting to paying for more than collective bargaining expenses.

The Supreme Court, in Communications Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988), a lawsuit that was supported by the Foundation, ruled that under the National Labor Relations Act the most that nonmembers can be required to pay is an agency fee that equals their share of what the union can prove is its costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.

Except in extraordinary cases, the union’s costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment do not equal the dues amount.

Employment relations for almost all private sector employees (other than those in the airline and railroad industries) are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Beck makes clear that nonmembers required to pay union fees as a condition of employment have a right under the NLRA to object and obtain a reduction of their compulsory payments so that they do not include union expenses for purposes other than collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.

The United States Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit,in Abrams v. Communications Workers, 59 F.3d 1373 (D.C. Cir. 1995), another lawsuit that was supported by the Foundation, took the position, correctly we think, that private sector unions under the NLRA must comply with the procedural requirements imposed on public employee unions by the United States Supreme Court in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292 (1986). However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency which has the primary responsibility for enforcing the NLRA, in California Saw and Knife Works, 320 N.L.R.B. 224 (1995), enforced, 133 F.3d 1012 (7th Cir. 1998), ruled that only some of the requirements of Hudson apply under the NLRA. At this time, the NLRB only requires unions to provide the following procedures to safeguard your right to pay no more than a limited agency fee:

  • the union must inform you that you have the right to be a nonmember;
  • the union must inform you that nonmembers have the right to object to paying for union activities not germane to the union’s duties as bargaining agent and to obtain a reduction in fees for those activities;
  • the union must give you sufficient information to enable you to intelligently decide to object;
  • the union must tell you about its procedures for filing objections; and,
  • if you object, the union must tell you the percentage of the reduction, the basis for the calculation, and that you have the right to challenge these figures.

If the union does not provide you with these procedures, or if you want to challenge the amount the union claims from you as an agency fee, you can either bring a lawsuit in federal court for breach of the union’s duty of fair representation or file an unfair labor practice charge with the nearest NLRB regional office. However, any such lawsuit or unfair labor practice charge must be filed within six (6) months of the conduct of which you complain. If you file a duty of fair representation lawsuit, you will need an attorney. If you file an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB, and the General Counsel issues a complaint on your charge, the NLRB will provide a lawyer to litigate the charge.

However, the NLRB-provided lawyer represents what NLRB and its General Counsel consider to be important "public interests." You can have your own lawyer representing your interests, but the NLRB General Counsel decides what issues to litigate, and you cannot force the General Counsel to litigate an issue he wants to leave out.

If you are a nonmember and would like to see a sample objection letter that will allow you to pay a reduced union fee and keep part of the money that you have been sending to the union, click here.

If you would like to get an idea of the kind of union expenses which are not chargeable to nonmembers, click here.

You should check with the union to see if it has a policy concerning when and to whom Beck objections should be submitted. For links to union objection policies on the Internet, click here.

In addition to the rights discussed above (concerning ways to limit your association with the union), you should also remember that private sector employees covered by the NLRA have the right to seek a "deauthorization" election, which completely nullifies the compulsory unionism clause in the collective bargaining contract and eliminates ALL dues requirements. For more information on this option, click here.

If you would like to learn more about your rights as a private sector employee, click on the appropriate question below: