Costs of a Union
Article 11 of the SEIU Local 200/United Constitution and Bylaws, "Finances," states:
"The revenues of SEIU 200United will be derived from dues and initiation fees, or service fees, consistent with applicable law."
Union contracts generate most of that revenue: in New York and other non-Right to Work states, unions and employers can (and nearly always do) bargain contracts containing a "union security" clause that requires union-represented employees to pay either full union dues or an "agency fee" to the union in order to keep their jobs.
FAQs About Unionization Costs
How much are the membership dues for SEIU Local 200United?
Many unions have a standardized dues structure, such as 2% of gross pay or two hours' pay each month. Not the SEIU. The International Union Constitution and Bylaws states that "Every Local Union shall strive to have a membership dues system based on a percentage of monthly gross earnings," but only requires that each local "shall maintain the formula necessary to generate a dues minimum equal to the flat rates specified in this section." (page 32)
The International Union Constitution and Bylaws (last revised in 2016) says minimum dues are:
Section 6(a). Effective January 1, 2016, for all members with annual earnings of $16,000 or more, the minimum dues shall be equal to $36 per month. Effective January 1, 2016, for all members with annual earnings between $5,500 and $16,000, the minimum dues shall be equal to $31 per month.
Effective January 1, 2017, through January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly dues for all members with annual earnings of $5,500 or above shall be increased by $1 annually, effective January 1 of each year...The Local Union may establish minimum dues for members with annual earnings which are less than $5,500.
Using this formula, minimum dues for all SEIU members in 2020 would be $40 per month for members earning $16,000 or more annually, and $35 per month for members earning between $5,500 and $16,000.
The SEIU Local 200United Constitution and Bylaws states: "The dues rate will not be less than the minimum established by SEIU, including any applicable waivers, in accordance with its Constitution and Bylaws." (page 16). However:
"The dues rates and initiation fees specified herein are established by the members of SEIU 200United and may not be changed except by a vote of the membership in accordance with Article 19 (Amendments) of this Constitution and Bylaws and with the authorization of SEIU."
Local 200United has about 15,500 members working in more than 175 different organizations. The Local 200United Constitution (page 21) says:
14.2 Quorum. A quorum shall consist of fifty (50) members assembled at a regular or special meeting called in accordance with this Constitution, and they shall be qualified to transact such business as may properly be considered at such meetings.
A vote of 26 members during a meeting of 50 members therefore could raise the dues more than 15,500 members are required to pay.
The Local 200United Constitution and Bylaws, which like the International Constitution was revised in 2016, says (page 16):
(b) (1) Beginning January 1, 2008 Private Sector Worker dues for employees earning more than $16,000 will be three hours pay per month or $28, whichever is greater. Every year thereafter, beginning January 1, the minimum and maximum dues will be increased by $1.
(b) (2) Low Wage Worker Initiative. The dues rate for employees earning less than $16,000 per year will be $22 per month in 2008, and will increase $1 per month each January first. Workers earning less than $5,000 will pay the International per capita tax plus $5 per month.
(b) (3) Dues Cap. The dues Cap is $65 per month in 2008, so no Local 200United member, no matter what their circumstances, will pay more than $65 per month in dues. The Dues Cap will be increased $1 per month on January 1 of each succeeding year.
Using this formula, minimum dues for all SEIU Local 200United members in 2020 would be three hours pay or $40 per month, whichever is greater, for members earning $16,000 or more annually, and $34 per month for members earning between $5,500 and $16,000 yearly. The dues cap would now be $77 per month.
Workers earning less than $5,000 annually would pay $12.65 per month because the SEIU International Constitution requires local unions to pay a "per capita tax" of $7.65 per member per month to the International, and Local 200United adds $5 to that monthly charge.
Contingent faculty are not required to pay dues or fees during times when they are not working in a position that is part of the bargaining unit covered by the contract.
How much are fees for non-members?
The SEIU Local 200United membership application form says:
"You have a right to be a non-member of the union. Non-members pay what is called a 'fair share fee' for union expenditures germane to collective bargaining."
Many contracts bargained by other unions, and even other SEIU local unions, say non-members pay a fee that is less than the dues members pay. Such is not the case, however, in some contracts SEIU Local 200United has bargained for contingent faculty they represent.
For example, contracts at Fordham University and Siena College contain the same requirement seen in the Schenectady County Community College contract: that faculty members who are "covered by this Agreement, and who are not members of the union, shall be required to pay an agency shop fee to the Union each month in an amount equal to the regular union dues."
The Schenectady County Community College contract goes on to say that adjunct faculty who are not SEIU members can request a refund of the portion of the fee that is "used for the advancement of political or ideological purposes," while the other two contracts do not contain that language.
Thus, when represented by SEIU Local 200United, non-members should expect to pay as much as members do, even though they are denied the rights of membership. At Schenectady County Community College, they can try to obtain a refund for expenditures not "germane to collective bargaining," although doing so may prove challenging.
What else can SEIU Local 200United members be required to pay?
Again, SEIU Local 200/United Constitution and Bylaws say, "The revenues of SEIU 200United will be derived from dues and initiation fees, or service fees, consistent with applicable law."
Similarly, International Union Constitution and Bylaws say, "The revenue of this International Union shall be derived from per capita tax, initiation fees, charter fees, assessments, or from any other source that the International Executive Board may determine."
New members can be charged an initiation fee. The Local 200United Constitution and Bylaws say "The initiation fee for SEIU, Local 200United shall be $25 for part-time employee members and per diem employee members, and $50 for full-time employees. The initiation fee will be waived for any person who becomes a member of SEIU, Local 200United through organizing and the establishment of a new chapter."
If Local 200United is voted in at St. John Fisher College, contingent faculty who are part of the bargaining unit at that time would not have to pay an initiation fee – but contingent faculty hired thereafter would. Moreover, faculty who stop teaching for a time, and thus stop paying union dues, must have "secured a withdrawal during the time of inactive membership;" otherwise, they would be required to pay an initiation fee whenever they resumed teaching.
When a new SEIU local union is formed, it must pay a charter fee to the International Union. However, if contingent faculty at St. John Fisher College were to become represented by SEIU Local 200United, they would be placed into a local union that already exists, and thus would not be required to pay a charter fee.
SEIU members can be charged special "assessments" of any amount and any purpose, much as a homeowners' association assesses residents for special projects or needed improvements. However, while HOAs typically require a vote by homeowners before an assessment is levied, there is no such requirement in the SEIU International Union Constitution and Bylaws. Decisions regarding assessments seem to be left to the International Executive Board.
The SEIU has used its power to charge members special assessments many times, and occasionally employees have fought back. For example, members and non-members represented by SEIU Local 1000 in California were charged an assessment equaling 56.35% of annual dues to help pay for lobbying efforts against two anti-union propositions on the ballot of an upcoming state election. Non-members filed a class-action suit and eventually won through a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. SEIU members still had to pay the assessment.
Read more about Knox v. Service Employees International Union (2012).
Occasionally, SEIU Local 200United has bargained contracts with universities that contain language acknowledging that members can be charged assessments. The contract for service and support workers at Syracuse University even allows assessments to be collected from non-members if they authorize automatic deduction of their fees from their paychecks.
Whether or not they choose to use it, unions have the legal power to charge fines from members who break union rules. The constitutions of some SEIU mega-local unions, such as Local 73 in Chicago, say the local will not charge members fines except to reimburse the local for financial losses the members caused.
The Constitution and Bylaws of Local 200United does not contain such language.
Payment of assessments and fines are a legal obligation for members of the SEIU, and anyone who refuses to pay can be taken to court and forced to pay what is owed to the union plus the union's legal expenses.