Resigning from a Government Union is No Easy Task

Want to join a union? Easy, just sign on the dotted line. Want to leave a union? Sharpen your research skills, because it's no easy task.

This fact was made starkly clear in recent comments by David Fillman, the head of AFSCME Council 13. Fillman, whose union represents over 50,000 government workers in Pennsylvania, told PLS Reporter's Stephen Caruso (paywall) that union members were already aware of their right to leave a contract. 

Needless to say, we were skeptical. But Fillman insisted, “It’s not hidden, it’s not legalese.”

As any good journalist should do, Caruso tried to find out just how “not hidden” AFSCME's contract is. The result? “A search of Pennsylvania Public Employees Council 13’s website, however, did not reveal a copy of the union’s contract, as Fillman claimed, so his assessment could not be verified,” Caruso reported.*

We took on the challenge and found the 294 page contractavailable on the “labor agreements” page of the “employee relations” section of the Human Resources and Management division of the Office of Administration under the Governor's website. Easily accessible, right?

Page five states:

. . . provided that such employee may resign from the Union, in accordance with the following procedure:

a. The employee shall send a certified letter, return receipt requested, of resignation to the headquarters of Council 13, AFSCME, AFL-CIO and a copy of the letter to the employee's agency. The official membership card, if available, shall accompany the letter of resignation.

b. The letter shall be postmarked during the 15 day period prior to the expiration date of this Agreement and shall state that the employee is resigning membership in the Union and where applicable is revoking check-off authorization.

Lateron page 100, to be exactthe contract lists its expiration date as June 30th, 2019, meaning current members can resign between June 15th and June 30th next year.

Today, it is standard for government union members to have just 15 days at the end of their current collective bargaining agreement to resign. That means you have 15 days once every four to five years to gather a packet of paperwork just to exercise the right to become a non-member.

That is, if you can read through 100 pages of legalese.

When the leader of one of the largest statewide government unions doesn't knowor isn't willing to admitwhere people can find resignation information, it's clearly time for reform.

Rep. Fred Keller's planned legislation is a step in the right direction. The proposal mandates a minimum 45-day period at the conclusion of a contract for members of a public service union to resign union membership. The bill would also require that members be notified 10 days before the 45-day window and mandate a notice of resignation rights at the start of each year.

Government workers deserve dignity and respect. They deserve to be given a real choice, not to be sent on a game of hide-and-seek if they want to exercise their constitutional rights. That's why our friends at Americans for Fair Treatment have made it easy, providing government union members three simple steps to resigning from their union.

Sadly, hiding resignation options is the latest in a long line of evidence showing government union leaders are willing to manipulate their members to maintain political power.

*Editor's note: though the reporter could not find, and was not assisted in locating, the AFSCME 13 contract, it is now available on the union's website.