The fair share option for Rockford school workers who don’t want to strike
Bus drivers, paraprofessionals and food services workers at Rockford Public Schools will go on strike March 15 if a new contract is not reached soon. Employees who want to go to work can be punished by AFSCME Local 692. They can avoid union punishment by becoming fair share payers.
Rockford School District employees represented by AFSCME Local 692 will start a three-day strike March 15. The strike involves bus drivers, paraprofessionals and food service workers.
Under general labor law principles, union members who want to go to work – and not strike – can be punished by the union, in the form of fines or other penalties.
But employees who are fair share payers can go to work and avoid punishment by resigning from the union.
As fair share payers, workers still pay fees – up to 100 percent the amount of union dues – to the union. These fees represent the worker’s “fair share” of what it costs the union to represent workers in negotiations.
Fair share payers are still represented by the union, and therefore they are entitled to all rights secured in union-negotiated contracts. But because they are not members, the union does not have any disciplinary authority over them.
If Rockford school employees want to work March 15 and avoid potential union punishment, they should resign from the union as soon as possible.
How to resign from the union
AFSCME Local 692 does not have easily accessible documents online detailing the process for becoming a fair share payer. But in terms of avoiding punishment for working March 15, the important step for interested employees is to make sure they resign from the union.
The first step is to send a letter to the union stating that the employee is resigning union membership and changing his or her status to fair share. A sample letter can be obtained by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to detailing the employee’s wishes, the letter should include the following language:
If you refuse to accept this letter as both an effective resignation and my immediate revocation of the Union automatic dues deduction, please inform me in writing of exactly what must be done to revoke my automatic Union dues deduction authorization and resign my membership in the Union.
Importantly, the letter should be mailed to the union with a certified mail receipt. That way the employee has documentation that the union received the letter.
A copy of the letter also should be sent to the school district’s administrative offices, with an attached notation that the employee has changed his or her status from union member to fair share payer.
How unions dictate when fair share status kicks in
Sometimes unions representing school district employees have vague or undisclosed rules about when a member can become a fair share payer. For example, the Chicago Teachers Union only allows teachers to switch to fair share status during the month of August, before the school year starts.
But such rules do not prevent employees from leaving the union. An employee can resign at any time. The rules just mean that he or she may not be considered fair share until the union-specified window opens again. Until that time, the nonmember will pay regular dues. After the window opens the employee can indicate that he or she wants to be a fair share payer.
Regardless of Local 692’s internal rules, the key is to make sure the union receives the letter of resignation before a member crosses a picket line.