AFSCME workers: Don’t want to lose money and risk your job? Become a fair share payer

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
February 23, 2017

AFSCME workers: Don’t want to lose money and risk your job? Become a fair share payer

With a strike looming, state workers should know they have another option: becoming fair share payers. Fair share employees receive all the benefits guaranteed in a union-negotiated contract, but the union cannot punish them for working during a strike.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees expects its members to toe the union line – even if that means losing $8,000 a month while on strike. The union even expects its members to risk losing their jobs.

And AFSCME can fine any workers who choose to prioritize family and financial needs over union demands.

But state workers have another option: They can become fair share payers. Fair share employees retain all benefits guaranteed in a contract, but the union cannot punish them for working during a strike.

What is a fair share payer?

State employees do not have to be AFSCME members in order to keep their jobs. Instead, they can opt to become “fair share payers.”

Rather than paying membership dues to AFSCME, a fair share payer pays a fee that is supposed to represent his “fair share” of what it costs AFSCME to represent him in negotiations and other matters related to conditions of employment. Under state law, the fee the fair share payer pays will not exceed the amount of dues required of members, nor can it be used for political activity.

What are the benefits of becoming a fair share payer?

By becoming a fair share payer, an employee does not lose any state-provided benefits. In fact, because unions like AFSCME have lobbied for and want a monopoly to represent all workers, unions still represent fair share payers and therefore are entitled to all rights secured in union-negotiated contracts.

AFSCME must represent nonmembers fairly and without discrimination in all matters covered in the contract: collective bargaining, contract administration and matters affecting wages, hours and conditions of employment. In other words, fair share payers would still be entitled to any of the following benefits, among others, granted under the AFSCME contract or under state law:

  • Salary and raises or merit pay
  • Health insurance
  • Pension
  • Working conditions
  • Seniority
  • Leaves of absence (including sick leave)
  • Representation in a grievance process

Fair share payers are not entitled to any perks guaranteed to members by AFSCME through its internal rules or membership agreement, such as voting on union issues, holding union office or attending AFSCME parties or events.

During a strike, fair share fees are still taken out of a worker’s paychecks – but because the fair share worker is no longer subject to the union’s rules and disciplinary procedures, the union cannot levy any fines against him for crossing a picket line.

How do I become a fair share payer?

The process is straightforward: An employee can become a fair share payer by filing a letter of resignation from the union with AFSCME and the employee’s agency. The state’s website assists any interested employees with the process:

  • Print out this letter. It informs the union you are opting out of membership and changing your status to “fair share payer.” Fill in your personal information (agency, facility, contact information) and send it to AFSCME.
  • From there, follow the prompts to inform your agency that you have changed your status from union member to fair share payer.

State employees need to understand their right to opt out of the union – and its authority to discipline workers – by becoming fair share payers. The links above provide an easy avenue for state workers to exercise that right.

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