June 29, 2011
No, union membership is completely voluntary. You cannot legally be fired from your job or be penalized for belonging to a union or refraining from membership.
Before Act 10, unions could require nonmembers as a contingency of employment to pay agency fees to cover the costs associated with collective bargaining. Since Act 10, non-members can no longer be forced to pay agency fees or otherwise be forced to make mandatory contributions to their union.
If your collective bargaining agreement was signed before the effective date of Act 10 (June 29, 2011) then it is still binding, though that situation is very rare. If your collective bargaining agreement was signed after the effective date of Act 10 then you can resign your union membership at any time.
Notify your union representative and your employer. You may do this by clicking here, which will automatically generate a letter for you.
Make sure your resignation is in writing. It is best to send it by certified mail. You may resign from your union at any time; however, you may still have to pay union dues or agency fees if your collective bargaining agreement or dues check-off authorization agreement is still in effect.
You must contact your bank or credit card company in writing and cancel any such agreement. There are typically time deadlines involved for such notifications to be effective. If you have prepaid your union dues, you should contact your local union to see whether you are entitled to a partial refund.
On September 14, 2012, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Colas declared Act 10 to be unconstitutional. However, two different federal court cases have declared that Act 10 is constitutional. In one of those cases, the judge rejected the very same arguments accepted in the Dane County Circuit court. In any event, Judge Colas' decision is on appeal and is only binding on the parties involved in the case. The plaintiffs are Madison Teachers Inc. and Public Employees Local 61 in Milwaukee. If you do not belong to either group, the case has no effect on you, although it is possible that your union may claim that it does.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will be hearing the oral argument on the case in November of this year and will likely issue a decision in early 2014. If the Supreme Court determines that Act 10 is constitutional, then Judge Colas’ decision will immediately become null and void – as if it never existed. If you are a member of either of the two unions involved then your opt-out will likely be ignored and your Act 10 rights forestalled by the Judge Colas decision unless and until it is reversed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. If you send an opt out letter now, it would not be effective until after the Wisconsin Supreme Court issues a decision but your letter could be given retroactive effect.