On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Janus v. AFSCME, that forcing public sector employees, as a condition of employment, to pay union dues violated their freedom of speech rights by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern. The Court reasoned that the collective bargaining process is political in nature and noted that in the past unions have advocated on issues involving education policy, climate change, the confederacy, sexual orientation and gender identity, evolution, minority religions, etc.
While public sector employees can no longer be compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the decision to stop paying union dues and terminate union member has significant consequences. For instance, in New York, public sector unions owe a duty of representation to members and non-members alike where it comes to the negotiation or enforcement of the collective bargaining agreement; however, a union does not have to represent a non-member as it would a union member:
- during questioning by the employer;
- in statutory or administrative proceedings or to enforce statutory or regulatory rights; or,
- in any stage of a grievance, arbitration or other contractual process concerning the evaluation or discipline of a public employee where the non-member is permitted to proceed without the employee organization and be represented by his own advocate.
Ultimately, as the law stands today, a public employee’s decision to pay union dues is voluntary in nature and cannot be compelled, but the decision to cease union membership can have consequences down the road for employees who want to file a grievance or are served with disciplinary charges.
If you have specific questions about your unique circumstances, please contact us to schedule a consultation.