Reclaim Overcharges

Refund of excess charges for those in workplaces represented by Oregon Education Association

If you object to the Oregon Education Association (OEA) overcharging you for workplace representation, you may choose to opt out of those charges.

Each year, the OEA and its affiliates charge teachers about $900 in union dues and fees. However, much of the union's budget goes towards political activity and other causes that are unrelated to workplace representation.

While state law allows teachers to be required to pay certain union fees, U.S. Supreme Court decisions have long established that unions are not allowed to charge teachers for "the support of an ideological cause [they] may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public school teacher" (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education 431 U.S. 209 (1977)).

In other words, teachers can only be required to pay for their union's representational activity, not its political and ideological expenses.
  
As a result of these decisions, any teacher has a constitutional right to become an "agency fee payer" by resigning formal union membership and paying a reduced workplace representation fee, which is less than full union membership dues.

An annual calculation by the OEA determines what portion of its budget is spent on legitimate workplace activity, like negotiating a contract and processing grievances, and what portion is "nonchargeable," or refundable to agency fee payers. The Supreme Court has required unions to provide this calculation to agency fee payers and explain the purposes for any fees it collects from them (Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986)).

The OEA's most recent calculation of how much of your dues it spends on legitimate workplace representation and how much it spends on extraneous "nonchargeable" purposes is available here.

Pages three and four reveal:

  • 58.55 percent of your total NEA dues are refundable; and
  • 28.55 percent of your total OEA dues are refundable.

In addition, some portion of your UniServ and local dues are also spent on activities unrelated to workplace representation and are refundable.

The total refund of overcharges from all levels of the union can range from $250 to $350.

If you object to the OEA's overcharges and would rather make your own decisions about how your money is spent, then you may become an agency fee payer by requesting to pay the reduced workplace representation fee.

The union will still represent you in collective bargaining, contract management and grievance processing, but you will no longer have to contribute to causes unrelated to workplace representation.

To become an agency fee payer, complete this form and mail it to the address provided.*

*Because the OEA will only accept agency fee requests during a variable time window each fall (September for most teachers), the forms provided on this page are addressed to the Freedom Foundation. We will collect your form and submit it to the union at the appropriate time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I request my refund and keep the OEA and NEA from spending my money on extraneous activities?

Inform the OEA Assistant Executive Director in writing that you wish to resign from the NEA, OEA, UniServ and your local education association.

Specifically state you object to your nonmember agency fees being used for nonchargeable activities.

Send a copy of your letter to the OEA and your local union.

A “fill in the blanks” version of the letter is available here.

Will I get a refund automatically every year?

No, OEA’s process requires you as a nonmember to request your refund each fall. Resigning is a one-time event; but nonmember “objecting” and getting a refund is an annual event.

Is there a deadline?

To resign formal union membership status, the OEA requires that its members give written notice during the month of September. This will likely be necessary for many first-time agency fee payers. The deadline for existing nonmembers to request their annual refund is set by the union each year and disclosed in the fee calculation notice it sends nonmembers each fall. To ensure that you meet this deadline, it is best to register your objection in writing during the month of September in either case.

Will becoming an agency fee payer affect my contract?

No. Becoming an agency fee payer does not affect your contract between you and your employer in any way. This includes all benefits, pension, district-provided liability protection and seniority provided in the collective bargaining agreement.

Will the union stop helping me with workplace issues if I pay only the workplace representation fee?

Under state law, the union has a franchise to be the “exclusive representative” of the members of the bargaining unit. In return for the monopoly on this particular service, unions have a corresponding duty to provide fair representation.

The reduced fee still pays for the union to assist with district friction over placement, schedule, grievances, discipline issues, and adverse actions. The union collects its self-calculated cost of providing the workplace representation services, and it cannot legally refuse to provide these services in good faith without discrimination.

Do I have to meet with the union or sign any of their forms?

No. Your rights are not conditioned upon any follow-up meetings or signing any disclosure documents. Such union-imposed hurdles are not required, and might even waive your rights to services from your workplace representative.

Why can’t the district just let me choose?

Some districts do. However, most school boards agree to union demands for a contract with a “union security” or “fair share” clause which makes payment mandatory. If a school district does not have this type of clause in its contract, they could require you to pay a fee which is lower – saving you the step of requesting a refund.

How do I know the union calculated my refund correctly?

It is possible to challenge the union’s calculation through a process outlined on pages four, five and six of the union notice sent to agency fee payers each year. The OEA will schedule an “arbitration” for those challenging the calculation at which some of the evidence used to calculate the refund will be disclosed.

Will I lose access to the NEA’s liability insurance policy?

Most school districts provide legal liability protection for their employees. However, the NEA does carry a supplemental liability policy that you will lose access to as a nonmember. Check with your district to learn more about your primary source of legal liability protection as an employee. Some teachers choose to replace the union's supplemental policy with similar liability insurance from independent organizations like Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE), Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), or from an insurance provider.

Will the union exclude me from workplace decisions?

Often, but not always, union officials will not permit agency fee payers to participate in bargaining unit decisions like contract votes or strike votes. This may seem unfair because you are still paying the portion of union fees that covers those activities; however, since unions technically have no legal obligation to allow anyone to vote in the first place, they can legally exclude fee payers. Of course, nonmembers are not allowed to vote in union elections or other internal union business.

Can I donate to a charity instead?

Under federal and state law, those who have a personal religious, faith-based objection to the union or its activities are allowed to donate the full amount of their dues to a charity. This option requires the objector to write a letter to the local union president. For more information about the accommodation for religious objections, see the information here.