Teamsters Local 117 is being sued by five Washington State prison guards for, allegedly, refusing to allow them to disassociate and pay agency fees rather than full dues. The suit lists Jay Inslee as a co-defendant. The prison guards are represented by the Freedom Foundation, which writes that the Teamster union’s refusal to respect workers’ choices has become the all-too-typical response of government employee unions. Thus, the suit seeks to set an important precedent. The Freedom Foundation,
“The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma in conjunction with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, seeks to establish a legal precedent that would relieve the burden of proof from members wanting to be free of the union and put it squarely on the back of unions to show why people should be forcibly represented when they don’t wish to be.
“‘Under current law, a person doesn’t have to be a full member of the union in order to work for the state,’ said James Abernathy, general counsel for the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based free-market think tank that is representing the guards. ‘But the assumption is that they want to be members until they express a desire not to be. This means the union begins deducting money from a worker’s paycheck to spend it on politics without the worker’s permission. A worker must then go through the complicated process of opting out in order to prevent the union from collecting his or her money in order to spend it on politics. We think the standard is backward.’”
As for the five prison guards, “each expressed a desire not to pay full union dues.” The guards are forced to pay an “agency fee,” but they cannot be forced to pay full dues (as the Teamsters are currently making them do) to help fund the union’s political activities. According to the Freedom Foundation, four of the prison guards went through the opt-out process and the fifth never joined in the first place. Yet, the state continues to deduct full union dues from their paychecks.
The suit lists Teamsters Local 117, Inslee and the secretary and human resources director, and the Department of Corrections as co-defendants as a result. The Freedom Foundation,
“Mike Wagenblast, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said his actions were the byproduct of years of callous treatment by Teamsters 117.
“‘Enough was enough,’ he said. ‘I spent years trying to convince the union it should be more responsive and respectful to our bargaining unit, and the union’s response was to dig their heels in even further. But when they decided to violate our basic constitutional rights, that was the last straw.’”