Limited Right to Ask for Discontinuance of Dues Deductions

January 5, 2017

A recent federal court decision in Madison has struck down a portion of the Right-to-Work law applicable to all employers in Wisconsin.  Under this decision by U.S. District Judge William Conley, the Court has issued a permanent injunction stopping employers from following the language in Section 111.06(1)(i) of the Wisconsin Statutes.  This provision of the state statutes provides that an employer is prohibited from deducting dues from an employee paycheck if the employer receives a notice from an employee requesting discontinuance of the dues deductions within 30 days.  The Court determined that federal law would supersede the state law and set a different schedule for when an employee may notify an employer of discontinuance of dues deductions.

The practical effect of this decision is to require an employee to follow the timelines listed in the union dues card for notifying the company to discontinue dues deductions.  Typically, the timeline identified in the union card is a specific date (usually 15 days or 30 days) prior to the date the employee signed the union card (annual anniversary) or the date of expiration of an existing Labor Agreement.  In other words, an employee has a limited time frame to notify the employer that he/she no longer wishes to have dues deducted from his/her paycheck.  The timeline is identified in the union dues card signed by the employee and complies with the federal law that allows the union to have an irrevocable contract for dues deductions of a maximum of one year.

Many employers have pursued language in Labor Agreements that would allow an employee to give a 30-day notice of discontinuance of dues deductions at any time.  There is still a significant question whether these contract provisions would be enforceable in light of this new federal court ruling. 

At this time, it is not clear whether an appeal will be taken as the federal court decision relies heavily upon a federal court case that has not been overturned by the United States Supreme Court.  Employers must now be careful how they handle the discontinuance of dues deductions when receiving a notice from an employee desiring to stop the automatic deduction of union dues from their paycheck.

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