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Trump: "Opt Out of Your Union"

The ruling would allow federal workers to stop paying dues at anytime during the year

Kris LaGrange's picture
Feb 19, 2020

In a controversial move by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) federal employees will now be allowed to opt-out of their union whenever they want instead of during a limited time period once a year.

On February 14th, the FLRA ruled that thanks to the Janus case federal workers would now be allowed to opt-out of paying union dues at any time during the year. This overturned decades of precedent which established a set period for opting out. This allowed federal unions to plan their yearly budgets with the knowledge of how much dues money would be coming in each month.

The Janus decision made all public sector jobs right to work, by getting rid of fair share fees. These fees were charged to non-members who received the benefits of the union, like raises due to a collective bargaining agreement.

“The authority has held [in the past] that the wording in [the statute] that ‘any assignment may not be revoked for a period of one year’ must be interpreted to mean that authorized dues allotments may be revoked only at intervals of one year,” Chairwoman Colleen Duffy Kiko wrote. “We disagree. The most reasonable way to interpret the phrase . . . is that the phrase governs only the first year of an assignment.”

In the end, the 2 Republicans on the board voted in favor of overturning the 40-year precedent while the lone Democrat voted no.

“The short answer to [OPM’s] request is that Janus requires no such reevaluation,” Democratic member Ernest DuBester wrote. “Indeed, the authority’s decision here does not contain a scintilla of legal analysis connecting its conclusions to the Supreme Court’s decision. This omission is not inadvertent. Janus focuses exclusively on the constitutionality of ‘agency fee’ payments required of employees who are not members of a union to support activities germane to a union’s duties as the exclusive bargaining representative.”

As expected, federal unions voiced their displeasure at the change.

"The Authority's decision is just another step toward the administration’s goal of busting unions and making it even harder for rank-and-file federal employees to speak up, defend their rights, and serve the American people," Everett Kelley, national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees said in a statement. "This meritless decision flies in the face of decades of settled and well-reasoned legal precedent in an activist effort to divide federal employees from their unions."

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) has announced that they will challenge the FLRA’s ruling. In a statement, they cited a 1981 FLRA case that established the once a year precedent.

While the FLRA ruling only affects federal employees, it could have a big impact on state and local workers. Many states instituted the yearly opt-out period in the months after Janus. With a federal authority saying that Janus forces them to allow a year-long opt-out period, these states could face challenges to their opt out laws.

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