National Employee Freedom Week tells workers about their options
Aug. 11 marks the start of National Employee Freedom Week, when nonprofit organizations in 44 states reach out to workers across the country to let them know they have choices when it comes to union membership. Even in states that do not have a Right-to-Work law, such as Illinois, workers don’t have to join a...
Aug. 11 marks the start of National Employee Freedom Week, when nonprofit organizations in 44 states reach out to workers across the country to let them know they have choices when it comes to union membership. Even in states that do not have a Right-to-Work law, such as Illinois, workers don’t have to join a union they don’t believe in, and can withhold at least part of their dues if they do not want to support the union’s agenda.
Why is this week so important? Because no one should feel forced to pay money to a union as a condition of holding a job. Whether you support unions or not, everyone deserves to know what their rights are so they can make a choice that works for them.
The outreach that goes on during this week is so important because union officials typically won’t volunteer to their members that they have the option of leaving the union or withholding the part of their dues that funds the unions deep political war chests. Employers, such as government agencies, often don’t advertise this information either, as too many politicians – even at the local level – rely on union campaign contributions to put them in office.
But the First Amendment says all workers have the right of free speech and free association, and workers don’t give up those rights when they go to work. Workers cannot be forced to join a union they don’t support, and cannot be forced to pay for union political speech with which they don’t agree.
What options workers have with regard to union membership depends on the state. In Right-to-Work states, such as neighboring in Indiana, Iowa and Michigan, workers cannot be forced to pay money to a union at all. In Illinois, unionized workers can be forced to pay an “agency fee,” but thanks to well-established Supreme Court decisions, they can limit their fees to their share of the union’s actual costs for things such as collective bargaining and grievances. Although they lack the full protection of a Right-to-Work law, Illinois workers are not obligated to pay for union politics.
In 2014, a poll conducted by Google Consumer Surveys found that 30 percent of unionized workers in Illinois would quit the union if they could without penalty. They can’t stop sending money to unions altogether, but they can resign their membership and save at least part of their union dues, without losing benefits or being disciplined. It’s important for them to know about just how to go about resigning from the union and getting some of their hard-earned money back.