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State unions to start collecting fees from nonmembers

Starting this month, all of the state’s employees who are represented by two labor unions will be paying a service fee to the unions, even if they are not members.

The service fees authorized by a 2009 state law range from $161 to $388 a year. They were negotiated as part of the most recent contracts for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance. Both contracts went into effect July 1.

The fees are based on the theory that the unions furnish services that affect all employees. These services include negotiating health benefits and work conditions, or representing workers in disputes with managers. Those who don’t join the union and pay union dues have to pay a fee for that representation.

AFSCME

AFSCME represents 21,000 employees throughout state government, and about 8,500 of them are members of the union.

Sue Esty, associate director of AFSCME Maryland, said that the fee will start coming out of nonmembers’ paychecks during the first entire pay period in the new fiscal year, which began Friday. Members’ dues are $14.96 a pay period. Most non-members will also have to pay $14.96 each pay period, though nonmembers who object to the union’s political activities will be paying just $10.80 out of each paycheck. Additionally, nonmembers who object to paying the union on religious grounds will either have their money donated to a nonprofit, or not have to pay.

AFSCME representatives said there are still negotiations that may lower fees for nonmembers. The new fees are expected to generate more than $4 million for the union.

Esty said that in the months between the contract ratification and now, AFSCME’s staff has been busy with an informational campaign about it. Thousands of pieces of correspondence were sent out, 70 work site meetings were held, and four large town hall meetings were scheduled to talk about the change. More than 1,000 employees opted to join AFSCME during the educational period, she said.

Out of the rest of the employees represented by the union, 610 have objected on political grounds, and will be paying $10.80 per paycheck. And 325 have claimed religious exemptions.

The additional money that the union will receive from the service fee will help the union do more than just collective bargaining, Esty said. It will help establish more shop stewards — at least one at every job site. The money will also be used for education, to help employees know what their rights are, and to start and cultivate formal labor management committees at work sites.

SLEOLA

State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance represents about 1,800 law enforcement officers in the Maryland State Police, Maryland Park Rangers, State Fire Marshals, the internal investigation unit of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and police from the Motor Vehicle Administration and the departments of Labor, Licensing and Regulation; Natural Resources; General Services; and Health and Mental Hygiene. SLEOLA President Jimmy Dulay said that about 800 of them are union members.

SLEOLA dues are $10 per pay period, Dulay said. With the service fee, non-union members will be paying $6.21 out of their paychecks. He was not sure at the end of last week how much political and religious objectors would pay; they still have about a week to register objections, he said.

Dulay said that the service fee has also caused a bump in new union membership, though the numbers are not quite as large as AFSCME’s. By the end of last week, he estimated that 40 to 50 new members had joined so far.

There has been little resistance to paying the fee among law enforcement officers, Dulay said. He estimates that the fee will raise about $150,000 more for the union this year.