Saturday, July 9, 2011

Maryland Unions Begin to Tax Non-Members

from the Baltimore Sun
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union of state workers, has set its nonmember fee at $13.84 per biweekly pay period -- roughly a dollar less than full-fledged members pay, an official said this morning.

Beginning this month, thousands of non-union state workers will see their paychecks reduced by $10.80 to $14.96, thanks to The Fair Share Act. Passed in 2009 by the General Assembly, the Gov. Martin O'Malley-backed bill kicked into gear after state workers this year approved broad contracts containing the nonmember union fee provision.

Sue Esty, AFSCME's assistant director, said the nonmember fee is based on a union expense amount that auditors have determined is "chargeable," meaning that it doesn't directly relate to political activities.Unions like AFSCME say charging nonmembers is a matter of fairness because the contracts they negotiate with the state apply to dues-paying members and nonmembers alike. But some of the state workers who don't want to be part of a union but must now pay anyway say the fees are tantamount to stealing.

AFSCME bargains on behalf of about 21,000 state workers and only about 8,000 pay dues. This new fees mean the union stands to gain as much as $4.7 million over the next fiscal year, about double what it takes in now. Maryland is one of about two dozen states with "fair share" laws.

AFSCME notified employees of the new fees last month, and more than 1,000 workers have decided to sign up for the union, paying about $389 per year.

Those who decline to be members but haven't objected in writing will pay $360 per year. And those who have objected in writing -- "political objectors" -- will pay about $280 annually. Last week, AFSCME reported that about 610 workers have asked to be political objectors.

The Fair Share Act also enables those with a religious objection to refrain from paying any union dues or fees -- but those workers must provide proof of their religious objection and must donate an equal amount to a qualified charity.

Many state workers who are in bargaining units represented by other unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, also are now subject to nonmember fees.

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