"Opting Out"

What is it? 

In this context, the term “opt-out” means to resign membership from the traditional union representing your job, and revoke authorization for automatic payroll deductions from your paycheck to pay union dues.

Public employees across the country regained the right to "opt-out", or leave, the union that represents their job with the 2018 Janus Supreme Court decision. You can learn more about that Supreme Court case and why it matters here


How does it work?

Likely you joined a union as new-hire during your onboarding period. You likely signed a membership card (sometimes literally the size of an index card), and signed paperwork allowing the union to collect your dues from your salary via an automatic payroll deduction. This means when your manager or HR processes payroll each pay period, your union dues are automatically deducted and sent to the union before you even receive your paycheck. Because of this, many individuals do not realize how much they are paying a union, or even that they are paying membership dues.

Typically, opting-out is a two step process: first, resigning your membership; second, stopping the automatic payroll deductions that are automatically deducting your dues from your paycheck each pay period. 

Formal resignation from the union representing your job must done in writing, though it does not have to be a long resignation letter. See examples here and here. If you’ve completed the formal resignation but have received a negative response from a union, please contact APSA so that we can be of assistance in moving forward.

Revoking the authorization of automatic payroll dues deductions may take longer, as there can be limited windows during which dues deductions can be changed. This is similar to a benefits selection window: there are limited times during the year where you may be able to select your healthcare insurance coverage, and there may be limited times during the year when you can make changes to your payroll automatic deductions.


This seems complicated. Is there someone who can help me with this process? 

Navigating this opt-out process can be complicated and confusing. Luckily there are a number of excellent resources to help workers through this process.

  • Americans for Fair Treatment has a nationwide opt-out resource
  • The Mackinac Center also has a nationwide resource
  • The website MyJanusRights details both how to opt-out, and what to do if you're running in to legal issues
  • Specific states have opt-out services tailored to the needs to employees in those states: New York has New Choice New York, for example


About your health benefits and pension

Many workers are interested in leaving a traditional union but are hesitant to do so for fear of losing access to their healthcare and pension plan.

Fortunately, most workers’ have their healthcare and pension plans guaranteed by state law, and thus these benefits are completely unrelated to union membership. You can determine which of your benefits are state-guaranteed and which are provided by your union by reading documents associated with your job: your employment contract, the collective bargaining agreement that governs your employment, or your employee handbook.

If you do not have access to these documents, you can request a copy from your HR department, your direct supervisor at work, or through the union that represents your job. If you need help accessing these documents, please contact membership@americanpublicservants.org as we would be happy to help.