Religious Liberty and Compulsory Unionism

Chris Card: "If I’d known this in year one [of my teaching career], I would have exercised my religious objector rights then. Teachers don’t know about fee-payer or religious objector status. Most are in the dark on these issues."


"Switching to religious objector status isn’t about money. I’m not doing this to buck the system. I pay more now than I paid under fee status, but it goes to a local food bank, and I’m so glad they get that money now. I’m really happy for them."

A teacher with objections to union membership on religious grounds cannot be compelled[x] by the school district to pay fees to a union. Teachers are protected from such employment discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under federal labor law, a significant issue in religion-based withdrawals is whether the employee is a member of a religious sect that prohibits union membership.[183] Occasionally, this standard has been raised as appropriate for Title VII employment discrimination claims. However, it has been established that Title VII claims may be supported by sincerely held personal religious beliefs. For religious objectors, Title VII requires that the unions allow withdrawal at any time (unlike the usual window for fee-payers, as discussed previously), and the union and school cannot require as a condition of employment the payment of fees to the union. However, Title VII only requires that the union and school boards make a reasonable accommodation on the issue of religion.[184]

In that regard, the courts have found that it is a reasonable accommodation to the needs of the religious objectors to require that if they do withdraw from a union, an amount equivalent to their dues be given to charity. This is to allay the union’s fear that large numbers of employees might withdraw from the union ostensibly on religious grounds in an effort simply to save money. However, it is important to note that the charity is rarely simply the teacher’s choice. Some agreements specifically spell out the charitable arrangement; others are set by mutual assent. Very infrequently — if ever — will a religious objector simply be able to designate the charity of his or her choice.

Chris Card: "The union has filed two grievances against me, both of which were found to be without cause. They even wanted to reduce my salary. Have you ever heard of a union wanting to reduce a teacher’s salary?


"This may not be right for everyone. But I would do it again in a minute. For me it’s the right thing. I don’t necessarily disagree with being in a union, but where people have rights not to be, they should be allowed to exercise those rights."

[x] For a full treatment on the subject of compulsory unionism, see Mark L. Fisher, J.D. and Robert P. Hunter, J.D., LL.M., Religious Liberty and Compulsory Unionism: A Worker’s Guide to Using Union Dues for Charity, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, June 2000.