Joining a number of other public and private litigants, the state of Alaska recently filed suit against the Alaska State Employee Association (ASEA) on behalf of workers who object to paying dues and seek to revoke their union membership.
The ASEA, which is an affiliate of AFSCME, restricts withdrawal by a member to the 30 days surrounding the anniversary of signing their dues deduction card. The Alaska Attorney General argues that while Janus dealt specifically with workers who are not union members, the court made clear in its opinion that no public employee can be forced to subsidize union activity. The union’s current rule that prohibits employees from withdrawing from union membership at any time, according to the lawsuit, forces those employees to support the union against their wishes, until the window of time occurs in which they can withdraw as a union member.
Other courts have held that the Janus opinion only addressed the rights of nonunion public employees and did not rule on the rights of current public employee union members who no longer wished to support the union. In response to the Janus decision, public-sector unions have significantly restricted the time period and method in which members can withdraw from the union. Anecdotal reports include employees disgruntled with their union learning that they can only withdraw from membership in person at union offices during a limited period of time each year only to find that the offices are closed during that time, or never being aware of the time restrictions during which withdrawal can occur because the employee failed to read the “fine print” on the dues deduction card and the restrictions were never brought to their attention.
Employers should note that state attorneys general and individual public employees continue to litigate the issue of whether a union can restrict withdrawal of membership, the best course of action is still ensuring that public employees, especially new ones, are aware of their rights to decide to join or withdraw from a union.