NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- F.U.S.E., the local union representing New Rochelle District employees is still sorting out how to respond to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
Members of the Federation of United School Employees, the NYSUT-AFT Local 280 in New Rochelle will receive “guidance” from union officials in September on how they may withdraw from the union. For almost all of those members the guidance will come too late for the current 2018-19 school year as members typically sign an enrollment card that states they can only withdraw from F.U.S.E. in the month of August.
On June 27th, the United States Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Janus vs. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that upended a long-standing precedent that allowed public sector unions to require public employees to pay union dues or fees or face possible termination from their job.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito held that it is a violation of the First Amendment rights of non-union workers for government employees to pay union fees against their will. For more than four decades all public sector employees were required to pay so-called “agency fees” to cover the cost of collective bargaining.
F.U.S.E. President Martin Daly told Talk of the Sound earlier this week he is working on establishing a consistent protocol for this with some input from NYSUT.
“I am relying on information from NYSUT's Office of Counsel on how best to proceed in this new territory,” said Daly.
Daly went on to describe the current process.
“A member who no longer wishes to be a member of the union would contact me at the FUSE office and make the request to withdraw from the union. There are two forms that I would send to the member for their review and signature: the "Voluntary Union Membership Withdrawal" that delineates the benefits that would no longer be available to the employee and which is saved at the FUSE office, and the second is a "Revocation of Dues Authorization" which is sent to the school district's payroll office and stops the deduction of dues.
Daly noted that the re-enrollment cards signed by most members in the previous school year and by all new members limits the "withdrawal period" to the month of August.
The "Revocation of Dues Authorization" is the mechanism which alerts the district that dues should no longer be deducted from the employee's paycheck.
“The union's leadership team and building representatives will be developing ‘guidance’ for members and a plan on how to disseminate this information once we meet in September,” said Daly.
The effect of waiting until September to provide guidance is that employees will not be able to act on that guidance during the same school year.
The Voluntary Union Membership Withdrawal form requires a departing union member to agree they have spoken to Daly and understand the “benefits” that will be lost as a result”.
“After speaking with representatives of my union (Marty Daly), I understand that I have elected to forfeit local, NYSUT, AFT and NEA benefits by withdrawing my membership from the above named organizations,” the form begins.
The list of “benefits” the will be lost are:
- Legal services by NYSUT attorneys including defense and representation in 3020A (teacher tenure), Part 83 (good moral character) and Section 75 (civil service) hearings.
- NYSUT funding of above legal services for any covered cases that arises during membership.
- Representation by my local union as well as state and national affiliates.
- Rights to purchase additional member benefit products provided by NYSUT Member Benefits Trust and beyond the collective bargaining agreement.
- Rights to use any member benefit services attorney referral program, benefit card, discount/programs/purchasing which are not part of the collective bargaining agreement.
- The right to contribute to contract negotiations and vote on the ratification of collective bargaining agreements.
- The right to vote in union elections including officer elections.
- The right to represent my coworkers through elected office in the union.
- The right to attend any local union meetings and activities.
Employees must check a box which reads “I understand that my decision to withdraw from my union may result in reduced bargaining strength which may, in turn, be detrimental to future collective bargaining of wages, hours, working conditions and benefits bargained by my local union for all employees.”
Members who leave F.U.S.E. will still be covered under the collective bargaining agreement, eligible for all benefits including medical insurance and their pension. The “Welfare Fund” administered by F.U.S.E. will still reimburse employees for out-of-pocket medical expenses and cover the cost of eyeglasses for employees and their family.
The “Revocation of Dues Authorization” form states that “Subject to New York State Civil Service Law Section 208, I hereby authorize ny employer to cease the deduction of any and all membership dues from my salary/wages in each pay period currently in force. This is a voluntary revocation of the dues deduction and shall be irrevocable unless I submit a new dues deduction authorization form.”
The form continues “This information supersedes any prior check-off authorization form I have signed. I recognize that my authorization of dues deduction revocation is voluntary and not a condition of my employment.”
In the “Office Use Only” section the form references the “previously signed membership re-enrollment card” which for most employees stipulates that a F.U.S.E. member can only with draw in August.
For the average employee, F.U.S.E. membership dues run about $1,000 a month. Other than limited legal support and the right to participate in union politics, there are no direct, personal benefits to union membership.
F.U.S.E. members wishing to with draw should be speak to their union representatives or Mr. Daly at the F.U.S.E. office.