Freedom Foundation

Exploitative Union Fees End with Worker Freedom

Rule of thumb: When workers can be forced to pay union dues, they can also be forced to over-pay.

The old, “forced payment” dues arrangement for public employees ended last June with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

But while unions have taken a number of steps to strip workers of choice, even a small amount of freedom in markets will provide the “invisible hand” that economists predict.

The evidence offered today is the common practice of forcing workers to pay an “initiation fee.”

As a former Teamster who has paid an initiation fee, I’ve always marveled that nobody bats an eye about being required to pay a fee to join an organization for the privilege of paying even more money in dues each month. It would be like the government charging a fee for paying taxes.

Maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas.

In many cases, the union “initiation fee” is a kind of a racket. I regularly hear from people who take jobs at grocery stores or other short-term, part-time, minimum wage jobs. When they discover they have to pay a steep initiation fee first, they quickly realize they’re actually working for less than minimum wage.

Of course, if you collect dues for a living, this is an ideal arrangement, since the employees will be in the workplace long enough to exploit but not long enough to change the policy.

That all changes, however, when payment becomes optional.

Take, for example, Teamsters 760, which recently decided to change its initiation fee policy … for public employees who now have a choice post-Janus about whether or not to pay.

On April 18, a Teamsters 760 Executive Board Resolution will be voted on that reduces the initiation fee from $200 to $25 — for public employees only.

It’s amazing how the need to earn their members’ loyalty changes the whole paradigm.

The union still has a few tricks up its sleeve, though. New employees in Teamsters 760 government workplaces won’t be faced with a $200 fee, but they still must contend with:

  • their home contact information being provided to the union;
  • unions being exempt from consumer protection laws that would otherwise prohibit coercive or deceptive practices;
  • a 30-minute captive-audience with a union operative at their workplace required by a new law;
  • fine print on their membership form making payment obligations irrevocable; and,
  • an impending new law allowing unions to sign them up for irrevocable payments if they say the word “yes” at the wrong time (of course, opting out still requires a signature delivered to the union).

If you or someone you know is in Teamsters 760 or any other union who wants to end payroll deductions, makes it easy and answers common questions.