Missouri Government Union Contracts Forcing Workers to Pay for Union Politics
The first amendment protects all Americans from being compelled to support political speech. This is why the U.S. Supreme Court has held that even in non–right to work states, where workers may be forced to pay for a union’s services as a condition of employment, workers must be allowed to opt out of paying the portion of their union dues that go to support political activity. In Missouri, this first-amendment right is under attack.
We’ve uncovered several union contracts, such as the contracts at the Jennings Fire Department, the Pattonville Fire District, and the Robertson Fire District, that require employees who choose not to join the union to pay a monthly fee equal to full membership dues. The fact that nonmember fees are equal to full dues means that even if you exercise your constitutionally protected right not to join the union, your monthly fees end up directly or indirectly paying for union politics.
Nonmember fees should be reduced in proportion with the amount of money the union spends on political activity. If 50% of a union’s revenues go to political activities, nonmember fees should be 50% of full member dues. In the contracts where nonmember fees are held equal to dues, a nonmember ends up subsidizing political speech unless that union engages in no politics whatsoever.
The union that holds contracts with the fire districts and departments mentioned above is the International Association of Fire Fighters. According to public filings with the Missouri Ethics Commission, this union has spent over three million dollars on political activities in Missouri over the last ten years. Nonmembers who didn’t have their fees prorated ended up paying for some of this.
Anyone subject to a union contract that doesn’t allow workers to opt out of union politics can fight back. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld a worker’s right to pay only that portion of union dues directly related to representation. A worker who objects to union political activity that he or she pays for should demand a refund of the portion of his or her dues that went to political activity. Below are some resources that can help: