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AFSCME – Reclaim Union Overcharges

Each year, AFSCME charges state employees hundreds of dollars in union dues and fees. However, much of the union’s budget goes towards political activity and other extraneous expenses unrelated to its core responsibilities of collective bargaining and workplace representation.

If you object to AFSCME overcharging you for workplace representation, you may choose to opt out of those charges by completing the form below and mailing it to the address provided.

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U.S. Supreme Court decisions have long recognized that the First Amendment protects public employees from being forced to pay for a union’s political and ideological expenses (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977) and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, 500 U.S. 507 (1991)).

As a result of these decisions, any public employee has a constitutional right to become an “agency fee payer” by resigning formal union membership and paying a reduced workplace representation fee, which is less than full union membership dues.

An annual calculation by the union determines what percentage of your dues are “nonchargeable,” or refundable to you as an agency fee payer. For example, if the union estimates that 30 percent of its budget goes towards political and other nonessential activity during a given year, then an agency fee payer will pay a workplace representation fee that is 30 percent less than the amount of full union dues that year.

The Supreme Court has established that unions must provide this calculation to agency fee payers and explain the purposes for any portion of fees it collects from them (Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292 (1986)).

AFSCME’s calculation of how much of your dues it spends on legitimate workplace representation and how much it spends on extraneous purposes is reported to all agency fee payers each December.

Total overcharges by the union typically range from 20 to 30 percent of full union dues, but in some cases can be far greater.

If you object to AFSCME’s overcharges and would rather make your own decisions about how your money is spent, then you may become an agency fee payer by requesting to pay the reduced workplace representation fee.

Because the representation fee covers the union’s core workplace activities, it has a responsibility to represent you fairly and without discrimination. The union will still represent you in collective bargaining, contract management and grievance processing, but you will no longer have to contribute to causes unrelated to workplace representation.


How do I keep my money from going to AFSCME’s extraneous activities like political and ideological causes?

Inform the AFSCME Council 75 Executive Director in writing that you wish to resign from all levels of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, including AFSCME Council 75 and your local AFSCME affiliate.

Specifically state you object to your fees being used for nonchargeable activities and that you wish to pay the reduced representation fee.

Send a copy of your letter to AFSCME Council 75 and/or the address provided.

If I stop paying the full amount of dues to the union, will I still receive the same wages and benefits specified in AFSCME's contract with the state?

Yes. AFSCME has arranged to be the “exclusive representative” of its bargaining units, meaning it is impossible for workers to get out of the terms of the contract, even if they cease paying the full amount of dues.

Will I need to request my refund every year?

Yes. AFSCME requires agency fee payers to renew their requests each year. The union sends a notice each December that outlines the agency fee process and provides a deadline for submitting the requests, usually January 31st. Once a request is received, agency fee payers will receive semi-annual “advance reduction” checks proportionate to the amount of overcharges that AFSCME projects over the next six months of that year.

How do I know the union calculated my refund correctly?

It is possible to challenge the union’s calculation through a process outlined in the union’s notice sent to agency fee payers each year. Unions will schedule an “arbitration” for those challenging the calculation at which some of the evidence used to calculate the refund will be disclosed.

Does it affect my pension?

No. Under state law, a union contract is binding on all employees in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are technically union “members.” Your compensation, benefits and conditions of employment are all set by the contract and the state legislature and will remain unchanged whether you pay full union dues or only the representation fee.

Will I lose my health insurance?

No. Your health insurance and other employer-provided benefits will remain the same regardless of your union membership status.

Will the union stop helping me with workplace issues if I pay only the workplace representation fee?

The union has a franchise to be the exclusive representative of the members of the bargaining unit. In return for the monopoly on this particular service, unions have a corresponding legal duty to provide fair representation.

How will my relationship with the union change if I become an agency fee payer?

Union officials commonly prohibit nonmembers from participating in internal union affairs, such as attending union meetings, voting for union officers or participating in contract ratification votes. You’ll also be ineligible for certain “members only” benefits, such as discounts on additional insurance or deals the union has arranged with businesses, if any. You may no longer receive the union newsletter or similar publications.

How does AFSCME spend my dues money?

Much of your local union dues are sent to AFSCME’s statewide affiliate, Council 75, and AFSCME’s national headquarters.

AFSCME Council 75’s federal filings for 2015 indicate it had nearly a $12.5 million budget. Among other things, the union spent:

  • $1.2 million on political candidates and causes.
  • $110 thousand on hotels.
  • $35 thousand on food and catering.
  • $20 thousand on airfare.
  • $20 thousand on union clothing and other promotional items.

AFSCME’s national headquarters regularly spends large sums on extreme political candidates and causes. Over the past two years, AFSCME has given a total of $415,000 to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

In addition:

Former AFSCME Council 75 director Ken Allen received a salary of $139,961 last year. Twelve Council 75 employees are paid salaries in the six-figures.

AFSCME national president Lee Saunders received a salary of $351,939 last year.