Religious Objections to Paying union dues


Your Right To Be Heard
Before the
Public Employment Relations Commission

This information pamphlet is for public employees who object to paying union dues because of a religious conviction. State law provides a limited exception for employees who have religion-based objections to paying union dues. Unions and employees normally resolve these matters informally, but the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has a process to resolve "nonassociation" disputes when a union and employee disagree. This pamphlet contains basic information about how PERC processes these cases.

What are nonassociation rights?
Public employees have a right of nonassociation under state laws if:
  • The employee is obligated to pay union dues or a representation fee under a collective bargaining agreement covering his or her job; AND
  • The claim of nonassociation is based on personally held religious beliefs, or teachings of a church or religious body.
That is the only situation where the right of nonassociation applies, even if employees believe they have other valid reasons to be excluded from union representation or from paying union dues.

Employees who assert the right of nonassociation pay the same amount of money they would have paid as union dues, but the money goes to a union program acceptable to the employee (for state employees) or to a non-religious charity.

An employee who has a religious-based objection to paying union dues should first contact the union to resolve the issue informally.

If the employee and union cannot resolve their differences, either of those parties can start a formal PERC process to get a decision implementing the state law. Public employers cannot start these cases because, even if they hold disputed funds in escrow under the PERC rules, they have no direct interest in the outcome.
Does PERC have jurisdiction over my employment situation?
You need to determine which state law (if any) covers your employment relationship, and follow that law. PERC administers several chapters of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), covering different groups of public employees:

STATE GOVERNMENT: LOCAL GOVERNMENT: All of these state laws are available from the PERC office, at 360-570-7300, or on PERC's website. If your employment situation is not on this list, contact PERC for more information.

How does PERC process nonassociation cases?
Three different chapters of Washington Administrative Code (WAC) rules apply to these cases:

All of those rules are available from the PERC office, at 360-570-7300, or on PERC's website.
What happens when a nonassociation case is filed?
PERC sends a "Notice of Case Filing" to all parties, with name/address information on all parties and the case number. Please use that case number whenever you contact PERC.

The PERC staff makes sure all necessary information is on the petition, and sends all parties a deficiency notice (with a deadline for reply) if anything else is needed.

If it appears the employee could be eligible to assert the right of nonassociation, the case is assigned to a PERC staff member, who will contact the parties about scheduling a hearing.
What issues are resolved in nonassociation cases?
The only issues that can be resolved in nonassociation cases are:
  • Whether the employee is eligible to assert the right of nonassociation.
  • Who is to receive payments made by an eligible employee instead of paying union dues.
Other issues related to union security obligations, including compliance with constitutional requirements, cannot be resolved in these cases.
What happens at a hearing?
A hearing is a formal legal proceeding that resembles a court trial.
  • An Examiner assigned from the PERC staff acts as the judge.
  • A court reporter hired by PERC records the proceedings. Parties that want a copy of the transcript must buy a copy from the court reporter.
  • The parties must provide evidence (through testimony of witnesses and exhibits) on the disputed issues.
  • The rules of evidence used in courts are not strictly applied. The parties usually file written arguments (briefs) after the hearing is closed.
Will PERC represent me or provide me with an attorney?
No. PERC staff members act in a neutral capacity, and can only answer questions about procedures. PERC staff members cannot provide legal advice or take the side of any party.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
You are not required to have an attorney. However, you should:
  • Study the statute and rules.
  • Review your claims and evidence.
  • Make your own decision about whether you want or need to hire an attorney to represent you at your own expense.
When and How Will I Be Informed of PERC's Decision?
After the hearing has closed and all written arguments have been filed, PERC will issue a written decision based on the evidence received at the hearing. The time target for issuing decisions is 90 days after the last written argument is filed. The PERC staff cannot provide any information about the content of a decision until it is officially issued.
Can my Union or Employer Retaliate Against Me?
It is illegal for a public employer or a union to retaliate against a public employee who files a petition or gives testimony at a PERC hearing. If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation, contact PERC about filing an unfair labor practice complaint.
If I Have Other Questions, Who Should I Contact?
This pamphlet is designed to provide a general introduction to PERC procedure, and is not intended to provide legal advice on any particular case or issue. If you have questions about PERC procedures not answered by this pamphlet, you can call PERC at 360-570-7300.
What is PERC?
PERC is an independent agency of the State of Washington that is responsible for resolving disputes involving public employers, public employees, and the unions that represent those employees. If you want more information about the agency, visit the PERC website at
How do I file a case with PERC?
If you want PERC to resolve a dispute about nonassociation, you need to:
  • Fill out PERC Form N-1 (available from the PERC office, at 360-570-7300, or on the PERC website).
  • Mail the form to PERC at P.O. Box 40919, Olympia WA 98504-0919, or deliver it to PERC at 112 Henry Street N.E., Suite 300, Olympia, WA 98506.
  • Give or send a copy of the form to the union and employer involved.
  • Employees claiming nonassociation based on teachings of a church or religious body will need to prove: (1) A bona fide religious objection to union membership; AND (2) that the objection is based on a bona fide teaching of a church or religious body; AND (3) that the employee is a member of that church or religious body.
  • Employees claiming nonassociation based on personally held religious beliefs will need to prove: (1) A bona fide religious objection to union membership; AND (2) that the religious nature of the objection is genuine and in good faith.