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More state worker unions drop exit windows

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The latest contracts for Pennsylvania state workers are slowly being made public, and as the Fairness Center noted this week, two additional unions have dropped the narrow 15-day window during which workers could resign.

The two are the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA), with about 10,400 employees, and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), with nearly 1,500 employees.

As we’ve reported before, SEIU Local 668 and AFSCME Council 13 have also ditched “maintenance of membership” (MOM) clauses in their new contracts. Respectively, they represent nearly 27,000 and over 9,000 workers. Adding them all together, that means at least 60 percent of state government workers now have the option to leave the union when they wish–a right they didn’t have before.

This is obviously great news for employees who want to exercise their freedom of association secured under the Janus v. AFSCME ruling. But what’s most interesting is how these changes came about–through the actions of just a dozen workers.

These state employees, all in Pennsylvania’s major government unions, tried to resign outside of their unions’ exit windows and got rejected. In response, they hired the Fairness Center to sue for the right to leave–resulting in seven lawsuits. It’s pretty clear that without this legal action, the unions wouldn’t have dropped their MOMs.

The unions may argue now that getting rid of exit windows was their plan all along:

…Wendell Young IV, president of the UCFW Local 1776, called the Fairness Center’s claim about the lawsuits being a factor in the removal of this clause from his union’s new contract as absolute nonsense.

But John Kabler, the worker who sued to leave UFCW, has a letter from 2017 that says becoming a full union member–not just being a non-member fee payer–was a “condition of employment.” Then UFCW said he couldn’t leave when he tried to resign in 2018.

If UFCW leaders couldn’t even be accurate about the basics of union membership–essentially resorting to trickery to get workers to join–they were hardly likely to let employees out at will.

In fact, the state and national unions will do their best to keep limiting workers’ rights. As we’ve noted at Free to Teach, rather than aligning more with the Janus ruling, an unchecked PSEA is trending in the opposite direction. The teachers’ union is still including illegal fair share fees in new educator contracts (and that doesn’t even touch the question of resignation windows).

So, as we’ve said before: we applaud the workers who took these out-of-touch government unions to court. Their courage has–and is–forcing labor leaders to treat their workers better.

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