Rutgers Strike: Legal Notice for Professors Who Want to Continue to Work
Special Legal Notice for Employees Affected by Rutgers Strike Order
Media reports show that union officials with three unions – Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (RAFU); Rutgers American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT); and Rutgers American Association of University Professors, Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ) – have initiated a strike this week at Rutgers University.
This situation raises serious concerns for professors and other university employees who believe they have much to lose from a union boss-ordered strike and want to continue working to not abandon their students, and to support themselves and their families.
All employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be informed before they do so.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK DURING A STRIKE, READ ALL OF THIS SPECIAL NOTICE BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK – IT MIGHT SAVE YOU THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS!
The Foundation wants you to learn about your legal rights from independent sources. You should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell you. For more than five decades, Foundation attorneys have worked in the courts and labor agencies to protect and expand the rights of individual employees in situations such as strikes. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse.
Rutgers Employees under AAUP-AFT, AAUP-BHSNJ, or RAFU monopoly representation should know they have the following rights:
- A union has no disciplinary power over nonmembers and cannot discipline them for crossing a picket line and working during a strike. If you are currently not a member of an AAUP-AFT, AAUP-BHSNJ, RAFU, or any affiliated union, you have the right to go to work even when the union bosses have ordered a strike.
- If you are currently a union member, you have the right to resign your union membership. Union officials can (and often do) levy large fines against union members who work during a strike. If you are now a union member and want to work during the strike, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership at least one day, if not more, BEFORE you return to work during the strike. That is the only way to avoid possible ruinous union fines and other discipline. To have the best legal defense possible against fines the union may try to impose anyway, you should give the union notice of your resignation a day or two BEFORE you cross the picket line so that when you return to work during the strike you are not a member of the union.
- The decisions whether to resign your union membership and/or cross the picket line are wholly yours. The Foundation is simply providing this information so that your decisions are informed. If you are a member and decide to resign your union membership, please follow this link, https://myjanusrights.org/, for a sample letter resigning your membership in the union and revoking any authorization for the union and employer to collect any fees or dues from your pay.
- While you have the right to revoke any dues authorization at any time, state law may affect the date the revocation becomes effective. If you encounter any difficulties in exercising your right to resign union membership and revoke union dues deductions, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid/.
- NOTE: Although not legally required, the best practice to send your union resignation and dues revocation letters to the union and employer by certified mail, return receipt requested, and save copies of your letters and return receipts to prove delivery.
- If you hand deliver a letter, make sure that you have a reliable witness to the date and means of delivery. In our experience, angry and dishonest union officials often pretend they did not actually receive resignations and initiate discipline against non-striking workers anyway. If you encounter any difficulties in exercising your right to work during a strike, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid/.
- It is Foundation attorneys’ best legal opinion that public sector employees have the right to resign their membership in a union at any time. At least two federal district courts have reached that conclusion. See McCahon v. Pa. Turnpike Comm’n, 491 F. Supp. 2d 522 (M.D. Pa. 2007); Debont v. City of Poway, No. 98CV0502-K, 1998 WL 415844 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 1998). If you encounter any difficulties in resigning your union membership, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid/.
- The United States Supreme Court has held that nonmembers of a public-sector union have a First Amendment right not to pay any union fees or dues, unless they have freely waived their First Amendment rights. See Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448, 2486 (2018). A union has the burden of proving employees waived their First Amendment rights by “clear and compelling” evidence. Some unions have claimed that employees who authorized their employer to deduct union dues and fees in the past have waived their First Amendment rights. Whether a dues deduction authorization is an effective waiver depends on when it was signed and how it was worded. New Jersey law may also affect the date the dues deduction revocation becomes effective. You can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid/ if you encounter any difficulties in getting the union and employer to stop collecting union fees or dues from you.
- If you wish to eject an unwanted union hierarchy from your workplace, you may have the right to petition for a secret ballot decertification election to do so. More information about New Jersey laws on decertification is available here: https://www.state.nj.us/perc/documents/NJ_PERC_Representation_Petition_Form.pdf. If you have questions about how to proceed with decertification, need assistance getting through the NJ PERB process, or encounter legal difficulties interfering with your efforts, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid/.