Checking Out of Union Dues: A Window of Opportunity


 

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Can a labor union keep collecting money from former members who have resigned from the organization and notified it that they no longer wish to have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks?

The answer may be yes, if the workers voluntarily agreed to a dues checkoff arrangement with a few small conditions.

This was precisely the situation in a recent case decided by a federal court in Michigan that addressed the concerns of a store clerk and a cashier who had worked in an “agency shop” in Traverse City, Mich.  Ohlendorf v. United Food & Commer. Workers Int'l Union, Local 876, No. 1:16-cv-1439, 2017 BL 296244 (W.D. Mich. June 30, 2017).

The Dues Just Keeping on Coming

Both workers sued their union after it dutifully accepted their resignations but kept on collecting dues payments because their requests to stop the deductions weren’t submitted during the proper 15-day window period or sent to the union by certified mail.

Not unlike that forgotten gym membership that you never use, these automatic dues deductions were draining the former union member’s wallets.

Certain Conditions Apply

The Michigan federal court concluded that federal labor allows unions to place conditions on revocation, such as an oft employed two-week annual  “window period” for revoking, or a requirement that the member’s request to revoke a dues checkoff authorization be sent by certified mail.

In this case, the two employees voluntarily signed check-off authorizations containing these restrictions with full knowledge that the authorization would be irrevocable except at certain times as defined in the agreement.

Even though the union’s dues checkoff policy restricts members’ ability to stop paying dues when they resign their membership, it isn’t unlawful, the court said.

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