Final Rule Makes It Easier for Federal Workers to Stop Paying Union Dues

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​Federal workers can revoke their union membership and stop paying dues anytime after the first year under a final rule that the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) published in the Federal Register on July 9.

"Specifically, the regulation provides that, after the expiration of a one-year period during which an assignment may not be revoked, an employee may initiate the revocation of a previously authorized assignment at any time that the employee chooses," according to the rule, which takes effect on Aug. 10. "However, the additional regulation will not apply to the revocation of assignments that were authorized prior to the effective date of the regulation."

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets on the news.

Eliminating Confusion

Although federal unions must represent all workers in the bargaining unit, employees can decide whether to become members and pay dues. When finalizing the new rule, the FLRA relied on language in a labor-law statute that says an employee's decision to pay union dues "may not be revoked for a period of one year." The agency said the statute refers only to the first 12 months of a federal worker's union membership, and the final rule will remove confusion about when federal employees can end their membership. "The rule is rooted in the statutory text and the [FLRA's] exercise of its judgment in balancing the competing interests of unions, agencies and employees," according to the agency.

(Bloomberg Law)

Legal Challenge

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) has filed a lawsuit that aims to halt the new rule. "Federal employees join our union because they believe in empowering frontline workers and the FLRA cannot take that away from us," said Tony Reardon, the NTEU's national president. "However, the administration should not be allowed to bypass Congress and simply rewrite labor laws it doesn't like, which is why we are fighting this in court."

(Government Executive)

Bans on Mandatory Union Fees for Public-Sector Workers

In Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, the U.S. Supreme Court  banned mandatory union fees in the public sector, which includes state and local governments. "States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees," Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote. Prior to the ruling, public-sector workers in certain states could be required to pay "fair share" or "agency" fees even if they weren't union members. Since labor unions must represent the entire bargaining unit regardless of membership, the fees are meant to cover the cost of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustments—but not political activities, such as lobbying. The high court deemed such mandatory agency fees to be a violation of public workers' First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. 

(SHRM Online)

Many States Have Right-to-Work Laws

Federal labor law allows private employers and unions to enter agreements requiring employees to pay union fees, and many states have opted to ban such arrangements through right-to-work laws. Seventeen states invoked this right in the 1940s and 1950s, and a few more followed suit over the next 50 years. Then, starting in 2012, interest was renewed when Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin passed right-to-work measures. Kentucky became the 27the right-to-work state in January 2017. Although the Missouri legislature passed a similar law in February 2017, voters ultimately repealed it.

(SHRM Online)

[Looking for state-specific information? See State & Local Updates]

Don't Overlook NLRA Rights During Coronavirus Outbreak

Most employees in the private sector are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). During the coronavirus outbreak, employers need to comply with the NLRA, including the "concerted activity" protections that apply to nonunionized and unionized employers. Any concerted activity designed to increase workplace safety would be protected. Even nonunionized workers who band together can't be disciplined or discriminated against based on protected concerted activity, which can include refusing to come to work for safety reasons or declining to work without a mask.

(SHRM Online)

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