Can Federal-Employee Unions Continue Automatic Dues Deductions from Retirees?

One would imagine that when an employee, public or private, retires, that their union stops automatically deducting dues. This is pretty straightforward: retirees do not draw a salary from the employer in which the dues are deducted.

As a matter of policy, the government should not expend public resources to act as a labor organization’s bill collector. However, that is the current law. Siphoning off dues, at the taxpayers’ expense, from federal employee retirees’ benefits is absurd. If an employee wants to fund the union in retirement they should do it on their own dime.

Unsurprisingly, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), a federal-employee union that represents foreign service employees, asked the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board (FSLRB) to determine whether the Foreign Service Act “requires the Department of State to terminate an employee’s authorization to withhold union dues from his or her paycheck when the employee retires.”

Under present policy, foreign service federal employees may authorize automatic union dues deductions from their salary. Once the employee retires, the union states that “the Agency automatically terminates dues withholding when a foreign-service employee retires.”

There is good reason for this. It is what the law requires. As the FSLRB decision points out, the Foreign Service Act is abundantly clear what happens regarding automatic dues deductions when an employee retires. Dues withholding ends when “the individual ceases to receive a salary from the [Agency] as a member of the Service.”

However, the law provides employees with the ability to fill out another dues deduction authorization form to continue dues withholdings from their annuities payments.

In the request for policy clarification, the AFSA states that they lose out on significant dues because of this extra step requiring employees to reaffirm their desire to continue paying the union.

AFSA argues that foreign service retirees may be voluntarily recalled to active duty so they should still be considered employees and not have to fill out another dues authorization form. In addition, the union claims that the Foreign Service Act defines retirees as members of the bargaining unit.

Luckily, commonsense prevailed and the FSLRB disagreed with the union’s assertion.

The FSLRB reiterates that the law is clear that automatic dues deductions are to be terminated when employees no longer draw a salary from the agency.

This is just another example of labor unions trying to use government authority to extract payments from workers that do not affirmatively desire to do so. If unions are providing a valuable service to retirees then federal employees will take a few minutes to fill out a new dues withholding form.