Because California is not a Right-to-Work state, your freedom to leave your union is restricted, but you still have options to leave or reduce your union membership.
The first option is to become an agency fee payer, which means you only pay dues for the union’s cost of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. As an agency fee payer, you do not pay for any other activities, including the union’s political activities.
As an agency fee payer, you are not a member of the union, but since you continue to pay the “representative” portion of your dues, the union must continue to represent you fairly and without discrimination in all matters subject to collective bargaining.
As an agency fee payer you are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.
A generic letter to become an agency fee payer is here. You will need your union's address and contact information. We recommend that you make a copy of your letter and either deliver it in person and receive a stamped copy or mail it with Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested Signature. This protects you in case, a union boss “loses” your letter. We also recommend sending a copy of the letter to your employer’s payroll department.
Although the generic agency fee payer letter includes text noting that your objection is continuing and permanent, some unions will not respect this and will make you annually resubmit your refund request.
For a smooth exit, you may have to leave during specific opt-out timeframe or “window.” Ask your union for a copy of your signed enrollment form to determine when your window is.
The second option is to become a religious or conscientious objector. If you would like to become a religious or conscientious objector, go to ChooseCharity.org. ChooseCharity.org includes a simple application process that requires no additional out-of-pocket costs.
Once the application is submitted, the ChooseCharity legal staff will take care of the rest of the process.
If you become a religious or conscientious objector, your full dues equivalent will be deducted but made payable a charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code. You will not be a member of the union, but are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.
If you think you may want to become a religious or conscientious objector, it is important that you do not request to be an agency fee payer.
State laws can differ depending on your profession, please consult with an employee rights organization if you have questions about your specific situation.
Association of American Educators (AAE) – $16.50 per month membership
Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) – $239 annual membership
National Employee Freedom Week Coalition Members are in bold.
Your Rights (Center for Union Facts)
Unions and Union Dues (American Center for Law and Justice)
Teacher Rights (AAE)
UnionWatch (California Public Policy Center)
Insider Online (The Heritage Foundation)
Labor Watch (Capital Research Center)
Alliance for Worker Freedom (Americans for Tax Reform)
Workforce Freedom Initiative (US Chamber of Commerce)