Workers Choose

On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States recognized the right of public employees to choose whether to financially support their union based upon the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Janus v. AFSCME decision provided good news for all teachers and other public employees who like their unions and wish to maintain their membership in them while nonetheless allowing those who believe that their unions do not meet their personal needs to stop paying compulsory fees to their unions.

If you are one of Ohio’s hardworking teachers or other public-sector employees who prefer not to financially support or participate in your union, you can begin the process of notifying your union of your choice below.

Please note that the resources, tools, research, and statements on this web page are offered for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or consultation for your particular situation. Learn more by reviewing our Frequently Asked Questions below. If you have additional questions, problems, or concerns that are not answered, feel free to reach out to us at info@BuckeyeInstitute.org.

Opt-Out Instructions

Make sure to maintain originals or copies of all documents sent by you to your union and employer and all documents sent from your union and employer to you.

1. Review your dues deduction card and the collective bargaining agreement between your union and employer to determine who you must inform that you have decided to resign from the union.   

2. Inform the required persons and your employer’s payroll office that you are resigning from the union effective immediately and that the union and your employer are to immediately cease all dues deductions. The sample opt-out letters provided below are intended to assist you in this step, you can also write your own letters. If you chose to use the attached sample letters, click on the links to automatically download Word versions of the letters, read through them carefully, and replace all text included in brackets [ ] with the information indicated, then print, sign, and send the letters.  

Opt-Out Letter to Employer Payroll Department
Opt-Out Letter to Local Union President    
Opt-Out Letter to Union State Treasurer    
Opt-Out Letter to Whom it May Concern (this letter is intended to be used if you are unable to find the names of relevant employer and/or union officials)   

Sending the opt-out letters via certified mail with a recipient signature required is the best way to ensure they are received by the intended office. You should receive a response within two weeks.

3. Confirm that the union and your employer have ceased deducting dues from your paycheck. 

4. If your employer continues to deduct dues from your paycheck, tells you that you cannot stop paying fees or dues, tells you that you must wait to resign from the union, or if the union tells you that you must continue to pay dues, contact The Buckeye Institute. Our lawyers may be able to help.    

5. If you decide to proceed on your own, and your union informs you that your membership has been rescinded but that you must continue to pay dues, review your dues deduction card, the collective bargaining agreement, and any communications from the union to determine the union’s opt-out window. Often this window is a specific ten (10) day period or a thirty (30) to forty-five (45) day period before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. If your union and employer refuse your repeated demands, and it is practicable, resubmit your demand during the opt-out window. 

6. You may still have the right to seek the non-refunded union dues, depending on the results of The Buckeye Institute’s court case Darling v. AFSCME

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a teacher or other public-sector employee, how does the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME affect me?

Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 27, 2018, public-sector employees in Ohio were forced to pay union agency fees in order to keep their jobs, which was a violation of workers’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

With its ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case, the U.S. Supreme Court ensured that public-sector workers can now decide for themselves individually whether or not to financially support government unions. If you want to stay in your union, you can easily do so without taking further action. But if you believe that your union does not deliver value or reflect your priorities, you now have the right to withdraw your membership without having to pay agency fees, and not lose your job.

How do I notify my government union that I have decided to withdraw my membership?

The process is different for each union and depends on the terms set forth by your union (it is not the same process for every public-sector worker), but—in general—you will need to notify your union in writing that you wish to withdraw your membership. See our general instructions on this web page.

What happens to those workers who are happy with their unions and want their unions to remain in place for their workplaces?

For workers who are happy with their unions, nothing will change. You can continue your membership and financial support of your union without taking any action. The Supreme Court’s ruling allows all government workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether to support a union at their workplace, so the decision primarily affects those who wish to withdraw their membership in and/or financial support of their union. It does not change anything for those who are happy with their unions and wish to continue financially supporting their unions.

What if I withdraw from my union now, but later change my mind and wish to re-join my union?

If you wish to re-join your union at a later date, you can do so. Contact your local union representative to re-enroll.

Does the United States Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME make Ohio a right-to-work state?

No. The Supreme Court decision recognizes public-sector employees’ right to choose whether they wish to financially support a government union. The court decision does not apply to any private-sector employees or private-sector unions, nor does it turn Ohio into a right-to-work state.

I work in the private sector and am a member of a union. Does this decision affect me in any way or grant me the ability to choose whether to join or withdraw from my union?

No. The Supreme Court decision impacts only public-sector (government) employees and recognizes their right to choose whether they wish to participate in, or financially support, a government union. The court decision does not apply to any private-sector employees or private-sector unions. Nothing will change for you as a result of this decision if you work in the private sector.

How does the ruling in Janus v. AFSCME impact collective bargaining?

The ruling does not impact collective bargaining. What does change is that public-sector employees can now choose whether or not to financially support a government union. By respecting the First Amendment rights of public-sector employees and recognizing their right to choose whether to financially support a government union, the court has given public-sector employees the power to hold government unions accountable for the services they provide to their members as well as the political causes and candidates they support.

This ruling is more directly related to the fact that some union members have expressed strong disagreement with the political issues and spending on partisan causes, political parties, agendas, or candidates of their unions, for instance, and wanted the right to withhold their financial support to those political causes, candidates, and issues with which they disagree.

I had previously chosen to stop paying union membership dues already and am currently paying only agency fees. Do I still need to take any extra steps now?

In theory, no. The Supreme Court held that before a single dollar can be taken from a public employee to support a government union, that employee must affirmatively consent to it. Previously, public employees who did not wish to be full members of their unions were nonetheless forced to continue paying agency fees to their union. Before the decision, these agency fee payments could not be avoided. Now they can be.

If you were already paying only agency fees before the decision, it would be prudent to contact your employer and union to ensure that all deductions from your paycheck, including agency fees, are immediately terminated.

Why should unions provide services to people who don’t pay for them?

Public-sector unions had previously lobbied to exclusively represent and speak for all of their workers, whether or not their members supported them. That was the expressed preference of the unions at that time. If government unions no longer want to exclusively represent all government workers (including the ones who are not going to pay union dues or agency fees now), the unions can seek legislative changes to make it so that they represent only their dues-paying members.

Public-sector employees should not be forced to financially support a government union in order to work for their communities, teach in our schools, or to enter public service—especially when those funds support political parties, causes, and partisan issues with which the employees disagree. Public-sector unions would be better off using those funds to provide improved working conditions and better services to their members and cease funding political issues, agendas, candidates, parties, and causes.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, public-sector employees were compelled to financially support government unions or they were subject to termination of their employment. Now, however, public-sector employees can choose whether to financially support their government union if it is meeting their needs and providing value or to stop funding their government union if it is not meeting their needs or it is spending money on partisan causes or political issues with which the employee disagrees.

Can I be fired for not paying membership dues or fees to a public-sector union?

No. As a result of this Supreme Court decision, union payments are no longer compulsory as a condition for employment in the public-sector. Your First Amendment rights now must be respected, and you can choose to withdraw your financial support from the government union without losing your job.
Will I lose my seniority if I choose to leave the union?

No. Under current law, seniority is outlined in your collective bargaining agreement and is not based on your membership in the union.

I am a teacher. Will I need to purchase liability insurance if I choose to leave my union?

No. Teachers in the state of Ohio are not legally required to purchase liability insurance. However, even though it is not mandated, liability insurance is readily available to purchase for those who wish to do so. There are alternative options available for employees who choose to leave their union but still wish to have liability insurance, including the Association of American Educators or the Christian Educators Association, which insure teachers nationwide. Both offer $2 million worth of liability insurance and legal consultation, among other benefits.

I am a teacher. Is there a way I can financially support only my local union, but still withdraw from the national union?

No, but you are not alone in wishing to do so. Many people have told us that this is what they would like to do. Unfortunately, at this time, unions do not allow members to pay dues only to their local union. However, you can choose to withdraw your membership from your union entirely and stop the compulsory financial support, and then send a voluntary donation to your local union if you prefer to do so.