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How to Switch Labor Unions

There are many benefits to belonging to a labor union. However, if you find yourself dissatisfied with your union membership, you may be wondering if it's possible to switch to a different union. Read on to learn more about switching labor unions.

Deciding to Change Your Union

There are many reasons why you may feel dissatisfied and might choose to change your union membership. You may feel that the union leadership isn't accountable, that your voice is not being heard, or that your needs are not being met by your current union.

The Supreme Court has held that workers have a constitutional right to withdraw or resign from union membership at any time. Union membership is voluntary, and you can withdraw from a union by submitting a written request to your union.  

In many states, if you work for a private sector employer covered by a collective bargaining agreement you will still have to pay an agency fee to cover the union's costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment. However, you will not have to pay the portion of the union dues that goes to things like lobbying or support for political parties or campaigns. Employees in either right-to-work states or employed as public servants do not have to pay union dues or agency fees once they resign their union membership.​

Joining a Different Union

Once you have withdrawn from your union you may wish to join a different one, but there are some practical considerations. If your employer is signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with your previous union, that agreement will govern the terms and conditions of your employment, no matter what other union you may decide to join. Moreover, unless you are exempt from paying agency fees for the reasons noted above, you will still have to pay those fees to your previous union. Joining another union may simply add the new union's dues onto the fees you are already paying your previous union.

 Moreover, if you belonged to a union that's affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), then the "no raiding" rule applies. This means that no AFL-CIO union can take on a member of another AFL-CIO union for at least a year after the worker leaves their previous union. This rule may significantly reduce the number of other unions you can join.

Because of these practical considerations, while it may make sense for an individual employee to resign their union membership, it may not be beneficial for the employee to join another union. If a sufficiently large group of employees wishes to replace their existing union with another one, however, it is possible for them to accomplish that goal.

Decertifying Your Union

If you're part of a group of workers who are seeking to change your union representation,, there may be another option available to you known as "decertification." A group of workers with a majority vote can vote a union out, which is referred to as "decertifying" a union. You may then replace the union with a different one.

Decertification requires a petition signed by at least 30% of your coworkers. It must then be submitted to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to qualify for a decertification election. If a majority of workers vote in favor, the union will be decertified. 

Be advised that there are some limitations on decertification, however. For example, you can't bring a motion to decertify a union for one year following the union's certification by the NLRB. Also, if the union and the employer have a collective bargaining agreement, you can't seek a decertification election during the first three years of the agreement. The only exception is a 30-day 'window period' that is 60 to 90 days before the expiration of the agreement. For health care employers, the 30-day period is 90 to 120 days before the end of the agreement. After the first three years of the agreement, workers can file a decertification petition at any time.

Get Legal Help Switching Labor Unions

Deciding to resign from your union or switch unions is a major decision involving many factors. Unfortunately, because the union has a vested interest in keeping you as a member, you cannot get unbiased advice from your union. If you are considering making such a move either by yourself or with other employees, you may want to speak with an experienced labor lawyer in your area.

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