1. WHAT WAS A FAIR SHARE FEE?
From 1988 to 2018, a fair share fee was deducted from educators’ paychecks in about 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s school districts. It was meant to be a fraction of full union dues that non-union members had to pay in order to work. Fair share fees were meant to cover the union’s costs of negotiating and administering labor contracts and handling employee grievances.
In 2017-18, a full-time teacher in the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) paid at least $468, an amount meant to cover collective bargaining and representational activities of the union for all members of a bargaining unit. Full state- and national-level dues that year were $712.
For 2015, the PSEA calculated fair share fees at 74 percent of state-level PSEA dues and 38 percent of National Education Association (NEA) dues. For members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), the PFT calculated its fair share fee at 83 percent of full union dues. American Federation of Teachers-Pennsylvania (the state-based affiliate of the AFT) calculated their fair share fee at 69 percent of dues. The AFT, the national union, calculated its fair share fee at only 65 percent of dues.
2. YOU ARE NO LONGER REQUIRED TO PAY FAIR SHARE FEES.
On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the practice of unions charging fair share fees to non-members in Janus v. AFSCME. The majority opinion said forcing government workers to pay for union services and representation they did not want violated their First Amendment freedom of association.
Agency fee payers in public schools and other government workplaces no longer have to pay fair share fees to their workplace union. Your employer should have already halted such payments. If not, or if you’re unsure if that update has been made as the 2018-19 school year begins, please contact your payroll/human resources department to ensure fee payments to unions stop immediately. If you need assistance on this, get in touch with Free to Teach’s parent organization, Americans for Fair Treatment at 833-969-FAIR (3247), or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. UNDER CURRENT LAW, YOUR UNION STILL HAS TO REPRESENT YOU, BUT NON-MEMBERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN “FORCED RIDERS.”
When lawmakers enacted Pennsylvania’s 1970 Public Employee Relations Act, labor unions lobbied for and won the right to represent ALL employees in a bargaining unit, whether such employees were union members or not. This made a union such as the PSEA or AFT-PA the “exclusive representative” of teachers in a school district.Individual teachers could not negotiate their own contracts, nor could competing unions represent and collectively bargain for employees in that workplace either.
Unions then argued that non-members were “free riders”: workers who were enjoying the salaries, benefits, and grievance representation that unions secured without contributing a dime to union expenses. That’s how the practice of charging agency, or fair share fees, came about (and was originally supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education). But just look at the sequence of events: exclusive representation became law 18 years before Pennsylvania teachers’ unions were legally authorized to charge teachers fair share fees through Act 84 of 1988.Teachers were robbed of any choice in representation long before unions accused non-members of being freeloaders.
Now that the Janus decision unequivocally outlaws the charging of fair share fees to non-member teachers, unions are indeed in the unfair position of being required to represent non-members. Pennsylvania statutes—and indeed, similar statutes across the country—should be amended so unions represent only their members in schools. This was what non-members always wanted in the first place: the option of representing themselves and declining any union association.
4. BY LAW, FAIR SHARE FEES COULD NOT COVER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES OF THE UNION—THAT’S WHY MANY TEACHERS CHOSE NOT TO BE UNION MEMBERS.
It wasn’t just money from the union’s Political Action Committee, or PAC, that could fund politics. Union member dues can and do fund a variety of “soft” political activities, including election mailers, get-out-the vote drives, independent campaign activities, public marketing campaigns, expenses related to soliciting and administering contributions to the union’s PAC fund, and lobbying of legislators. In 2011, PSEA member dues even funded a $21,000 in-kind contribution to recall the governor of Wisconsin.
Teachers unions must report these as “political activities and lobbying” to the U.S. Department of Labor every year on a financial document called the LM-2. And because union dues could fund politics, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1986 in Teachers v. Hudson that unions had to demonstrate with detailed financial records that no portion of a worker’s fair share fee goes toward ideological activities, as that would violate his or her First Amendment rights. This annual notification was called a “Hudson notice,” but is no longer necessary because the fair share fee has itself been prohibited in Janus v. AFSCME.
5. IF YOU ARE UNHAPPY WITH HOW YOUR UNION SPENDS YOUR MONEY ON POLITICS—OR FOR ANY OTHER REASON—YOU MAY RESIGN YOUR UNION MEMBERSHIP.
Collective bargaining agreements may impose a “maintenance of membership” (MOM) requirement, which allows educators to resign only during a designated window, often towards the end of their contract. Contact Free to Teach if you would like help resigning outside of your MOM window.
See Section 606, Public Employee Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. § 101 – 2301, http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/LEGIS/LI/uconsCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&yr=1970&sessInd=0&smthLwInd=0&act=0195.&CFID=341789689&CFTOKEN=68930824.
Act 84’s language became part of The Administrative Code of 1929 – Fair Share Fee; Payroll Deduction, 71 Pa. Stat. § 2215, http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/US/PDF/1929/0/0175..PDF.