Notice to Non-Union Member Employees – Agency Fees

November 2001

In a case arising in Washington state, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over California, held that a school district was not required to examine the notice provided to non-union employees regarding deduction of “agency” fees at the time the deduction is made.

Employees who elect not to join an employee union are still required to pay an “agency” or “fair share” fee to pay for the benefits they receive from the union’s efforts. (Government Code sections 3502.5, 3540.1, 3546). These employees have certain rights to ensure they are required to pay no more than the amounts properly charged to union activity which would not include, for example, contributing to political candidates and ideological causes. Among those rights is the right to receive an adequate explanation of the basis for the agency fee, known as a Hudson notice after the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Chicago Teachers Union Local No. 1 v. Hudson (1996) 475 U.S. 292. Here the employees alleged the notice they were given was not an adequate explanation of the fees, and they asserted the district had a legal duty to ensure the union complied with the Hudson notice requirement before any fees could be deducted from their wages.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the employer’s duty to examine the notice arises only at the time the union seeks to take action against a nonmember for failure to pay the agency fee. The routine collection of agency fees does not trigger a duty on the party of the employer to ensure every employer has received a proper Hudson notice.

It is our recommendation that districts ask the exclusive representatives of their bargaining units to indicate, in writing, they have provided Hudson notices to affected employees.