Court Holds Union Authorization Card Not Revokable by Law

Did you know that union authorization cards are not revokable even if the employee did not know the meaning of what she signed?

This is a typical story that I hear several times per year. And it ended exactly the way I expected it to end.

Employee Baro attended a presentation by the Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504. A union representative outlined how much dues would cost and gave each teacher a union membership application.

The union rep did not say membership was mandatory (or that it wasn’t mandatory). There is no law that unions need to tell potential members anything, not even the truth. Baro assumed it was mandatory and signed the application without reading it.

The application read, “this voluntary authorization shall be irrevocable” and that it was “signed freely and voluntarily and not out of any fear or reprisal.”

A few days after signing the application, Baro learned that membership was optional. She tried to revoke her membership and recoup her dues.

The union denied her revocation and refused to reimburse the dues. She sued.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the union holding that the “I got duped” defense didn’t work. OK, the court didn’t say that, I did; the court is more professional.

This is an interesting win for organized labor.

The union did not have to tell Baro that her membership in the union was voluntary. But isn’t a union supposed to operate in the best interest of an employee? Wouldn’t a union acting in the employee’s best interest have told her membership was not mandatory? Apparently not. Seems that the union just wanted her dues money.


Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.

Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.

You can reach Matt via email at