United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials have ordered a strike action covering at least 45 facilities of the “Big Three” American automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. This situation raises serious concerns for autoworkers and other employees who may believe there is much to lose from a strike and who do not want to abandon their jobs.

Autoworkers have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to know their rights before they do so. The Foundation believes employees should learn about their legal rights from independent sources and should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell them. For more than five decades, Foundation attorneys have worked in the courts and labor agencies to protect employees’ right to work in situations such as strikes. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuses.


Autoworkers at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis should know they have the following rights:

  1. If you are not a member of the UAW, the UAW cannot lawfully fine or discipline you if you choose to work during a union-ordered strike. The reason is that union officials have no disciplinary power over individuals who are not union members. Union officials cannot fine or discipline nonmembers for crossing a picket line and working during a strike.

  2. If you are a member of the UAW and want to work during a strike, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership at least one day before you return to work to avoid potential union fines and other discipline. The reason is that union officials can (and often do) levy heavy fines against union members who work during a strike.

    Employees have a legal right to resign their union membership at any time, simply by providing a letter of resignation to the union. Under current law, a letter of resignation is automatically effective the next day after the letter is postmarked. Although not legally required, a good practice is to send a resignation letter to both the union and employer by certified mail, return receipt requested. If a resignation letter is hand delivered, the delivery should be witnessed. Keep a copy of the resignation letter. These practices will guard against union officials pretending to have not received a resignation letter.

    In sum, if you are a UAW member who wants to work during a strike and avoid union fines for so doing, you should give the UAW notice of your resignation at least one day before you cross the picket line so that when you return to work you are not a union member. A sample resignation letter can be found here. If you encounter any difficulties in exercising your right to work during a strike, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid here.

    The decision whether to resign your membership and/or work during a strike is wholly yours. The Foundation is simply providing this information so that your decision is informed. More information can be found at this link.

  3. If you are or become a nonmember of the UAW and are fortunate enough to live in a Right to Work State, you cannot be required to pay any dues or fees to the union as a condition of your employment. A list of Right to Work states can be found here.

    If you are or become a nonmember of the UAW and do not live in a Right to Work state, you can be compelled to pay a reduced fee to the UAW when there is a contract in effect that contains a forced fee clause. More information on individuals’ right to pay reduced fees in non-Right to Work states can be found here.

    Finally, if you are employed in Michigan, please click here for more information because the situation in that state is currently in state of flux.