Unions sometimes attempt to impose limitations upon the right of a member to resign. Several federal courts have held that the First Amendment protects a public employee’s right to resign union membership at any time. Some states, but not all, also have statutes that guarantee public employees the right to resign.
As a nonmember, you would have a First Amendment right not to pay any money to a union, unless you have affirmatively consented to paying and knowingly and clearly waived your First Amendment right not to financially support a union.
The decision to resign is yours alone. In addition to not having any financial obligations to the union, as a nonmember you would not be subject to union rules and discipline. For example, nonmembers are not subject to union rules for working during a strike and cannot be fined for doing so.
If you resign from union membership and stop paying dues, and your public employer has collective bargaining, the union would still be required 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, as a nonmember you probably could not vote on ratification of the contract or election of union officers, and there may be member-only benefits under the union’s constitution or bylaws that are not available to nonmembers.
Because you work for a public employer, even if a state law or contract between your employer and the union contains a provision requiring you to join the union or pay union fees, as a result of Janus v. AFSCME, you would have no obligations whatsoever to the union after resigning because that state law or forced fee contractual provision is unconstitutional.
However, if as a union member you signed a dues deduction authorization, that authorization may contain a limitation on when it can be revoked. In that event, you should request the advice of a Foundation attorney as to whether the limitation can lawfully be enforced.
If you would like to see a sample union resignation and dues check-off authorization letter for public employees, click here. You should check whether your union’s constitution or bylaws specifies to whom a resignation must be sent.
If you decide to resign and revoke your check-off authorization, keep copies of your letters for your records. You should send such letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that the union and employer cannot claim that they did not receive them.
If the union and/or employer do not honor your resignation and/or dues deduction revocation, you should contact the Foundation immediately if you want assistance. There may be a time limit on when claims of violation of your rights may be filed, so it is important to pursue claims promptly.
This information is not intended to advocate that you resign from the union or revoke your dues check-off authorization. It simply explains your legal rights.
If you would like to learn more about your rights as a state or local government employee, click on the appropriate question below:
- Can I be required to be a union member or pay dues to a union?
- How can I resign my union membership and stop paying union dues?
- I am a nonmember but authorized deduction of union fees. How can I stop the deductions?
- How do I cut off the use of my dues for politics and other nonbargaining activities?
- What if I have religious objections to joining or financially supporting a union?
- What if I am a victim of union violence?
- What if I want to work during a strike?