On September 16, 2019, United Auto Workers (UAW) officials ordered over 40,000 workers on strike at General Motors (GM) facilities nationwide.
This strike comes on the heels of news reports regarding an investigation into the UAW top officials’ misuse of union funds and a recent National Labor Relations Board decision against a UAW local finding that UAW officials committed unfair labor practices against a Ford employee. The NLRB found the UAW officials violated the employee’s rights by failing to honor his resignation and revocation of dues deduction authorization, and unlawfully deducted and kept his union dues.
This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike. That is why workers confronted with strike demands frequently contact the Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other vicious union discipline for continuing to report to work to support themselves and their families.
The fact is, employees do not have to become or remain members of the UAW or any other union to get or keep their jobs. Despite the often-misleading language in collective bargaining contracts, no employee is actually required to be a member of a union. And if an employee is not a member of a union, then union officials cannot fine or discipline him or her. Thus, employees have the right to rebuff union strike demands under federal labor law, but it is important that you read the following before you do so.
GM employees should know they have the following rights:
1) You have the right to resign your membership in the union. If you don’t support this union, you can send the union a letter resigning your membership.
2) Employees who are not members of a union can return to work during a strike without penalty. Union officials can (and often do) fine actual union members who work during a strike. So, you should seriously consider resigning BEFORE you return to work during a strike, which is the only way to avoid union fines and discipline. For more information, visit: Union Discipline and Employee Rights.
3) You also have the right to revoke your dues checkoff and stop allowing the union to collect money from your paycheck every week. When there is no collective bargaining agreement in effect you can send letters to the union and your employer revoking your authorization to have union dues deducted from your paycheck.
4) If you wish to eject an unaccountable union from your workplace, you have the right to sign a decertification petition to obtain a secret ballot election to do so. For more information, visit: Decertification Election.
A sample letter for employees who wish to resign their union membership and revoke their dues check-off is here.
NOTE: If possible, use certified mail, return receipt requested, and save copies of your letters and the return receipts to prove delivery. If you hand deliver a resignation and/or dues deduction revocation, make sure that you have a reliable witness to the delivery. In our experience, it is not uncommon for angry and dishonest union officials to pretend they did not actually receive resignations and initiate proceedings against non-striking workers anyway.
You should learn about your rights from independent sources and should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell you. For five decades, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has represented workers in the courts and labor agencies to expand and protect the rights of individual employees in situations such as this. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse.
Go to About Your Legal Rights: Private Sector Employee to learn more about your rights. You can contact the NRTW with any questions by calling 800-336-3600, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or filling out the form here.