State, local laws force public employees to pay labor unions


By Jason Hart |

Taxpayer money goes to mandatory labor union “fair share” or “agency” fees in Washington, D.C,. and 23 states.

Public employees can be forced to pay a labor union as a condition of employment in the states highlighted on the map below.

Nearly half of all U.S. states allow public-sector union contracts to require mandatory dues as a condition of employment, based on a review of U.S. Department of Labor records, state labor laws and a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation study from 2012.

Many of these states and local governments automatically deduct union fees from public employees’ pay, funneling taxpayer money directly to labor bosses.

Although Missouri and Kentucky do not explicitly ban public-sector agency fees, DOL reports indicate no major labor union in either state takes such fees from government workers. Among the states where agency fees are permitted, statutes governing the practice are far from uniform.

Wisconsin’s 2011 Act 10 labor reforms ending forced unionism for most government workers exempted public safety unions. Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work law included similar exceptions for public safety unions.

National Education Association and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the nation’s largest and fourth-largest labor unions, respectively — are leading opponents of laws that let workers opt out of both union membership and fees.

AFSCME and NEA have lost thousands of members in Wisconsin and Michigan who were previously required to pay fees through the unions’ local affiliates.

“If they still want to belong to the union and pay dues, government workers are welcome to. But, when given the choice, a vast majority of workers have abandoned their union,” Brett Healy, president of the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute, said in an email to

“Since (Wisconsin) Gov. Scott Walker passed his signature collective bargaining reforms known as Act 10, AFSCME membership alone is down a whopping 70 percent in the state.

“If unions were truly interested in helping workers — and not raw political power — they would not need forced unionization,” Healy said. “Wisconsin is a clear example of what the unions’ priorities really are. They simply care about filling their own pockets, and the pockets of their close political allies, with other people’s hard earned money.”

Mackinac Center, Michigan’s largest free-market think tank, reported on Sept. 8 that at least 6,500 Michigan Education Association members have left the NEA affiliate. Many MEA contracts with fair-share provisions were rushed through before Michigan’s right-to-work law took effect, locking in tens of thousands of teachers for several more years.

The following states’ labor laws allow public-sector unions to take mandatory fees from public school teachers and other government employees in unionized workplaces:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington