Frequently Asked Questions
What is my new choice?
The United States Supreme Court has ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that if you work in the public sector, you can’t be forced to pay a union to keep your job. The ruling means New York’s 1977 forced-payment law, which affects more than one million New Yorkers, is unconstitutional. You may have previously been told you had no choice but to pay a union, but now you do. These are your rights.
How do I exercise my rights? What will it mean for me?
You can use this website to tell your employer to stop deducting dues from your paycheck. You will still have the same pay and benefits negotiated on your behalf in the union contract, but you won’t receive certain union services that are reserved for members.
Why does it work this way?
For more than 30 years, New York government unions have had “exclusive representation” of workers. This keeps employees from negotiating for themselves or having a different union represent them. This is a major perk for unions because it shields them from competition. But as part of the deal, it means the pay and benefit levels they negotiate have to cover members and non-members alike.
Will exercising my rights affect my pay or health insurance?
No. Pay and benefits are decided by which bargaining unit you’re in, not whether you pay a union. And if you’re a civil service employee, your pay is often fixed by law.
Watch this short video to hear a union lawyer explain how contract benefits aren’t connected to union membership.
Will exercising my rights affect my pension?
Absolutely not. Your pension is guaranteed under the state Constitution, not a union contract. Article V, Section 7 says “membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.” Your pension system membership has nothing to do with union membership.
Did the Janus case affect my right to collective bargaining?
No, not at all. In fact, Janus should make it easier to create new unions for workers who aren’t satisfied with their current union.
What does exercising my rights affect?
Opting out of a union means the union may no longer be required to provide certain services to you, such as grievance or disciplinary representation. People who leave the union usually can’t vote on the union contract, vote for union officers or run for office themselves. They also may not receive certain union perks, such as travel discounts. Consult the union for the full list of rules.
Do many people exercise these rights?
Yes. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers working for the state government, local governments and school districts already choose not to belong to a union for a range of reasons. Some object to how their dues are spent, and others just want to save money. When teachers in Michigan got the right to choose in 2012, about one in five left the union they had joined previously.
Can I rejoin if I change my mind?
Definitely. It’s up to you. What’s important is that people have the right to choose.
Is union membership optional?
Union membership has always been optional for public employees. For many years, people were forced to pay the workplace union whether or not they joined, but those forced payments (sometimes called “fair share fees”) were banned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2018. The court ruled that forcing you to pay a union violates your First Amendment rights because it’s forcing you to support a political cause you don’t necessarily agree with.
Can I be fired if I leave my union?
Union membership doesn’t affect your relationship with your employer, nor can employers issue layoffs specifically to people who have left the union. Job guarantees like tenure and civil service protections come from state law and aren’t tied to union membership.