A new op-ed in the News Tribune explains why Washington State is failing to protect the rights of union-represented public employees. In fact, according to the writer, our state has “some of the worst laws on the book.” Via the News Tribune,
“Under federal law, unions may require private sector employees to pay dues as a condition of employment. Federal law also permits states to pass “right-to-work” laws that prohibit employees from being fired for refusing to pay union dues. Wisconsin recently made history by becoming the 25th state to pass such a law.
“However, federal law provides a few basic protections even for workers in states without right-to-work laws.
“For instance, federal law permits private sector employees to vote out a mandatory dues, or “union security,” provision in their union contract in a “deauthorization” election, effectively making it a right-to-work workplace.
“Similarly, unions representing private sector workers must annually file basic financial reports with the U.S. Department of Labor. The reports are publicly available, so private sector union workers can see how their union spends their dues money.”
Washington State’s current labor laws present a stark contrast to norm, lacking even the “rudimentary protections found in federal law.” Republican leaders in the state Senate sought to change that with two key bills, Senate Bill 5045 and Senate Bill 5226.
As Shift reported, SB 5045 would grant public employees the ability to de-authorize mandatory union dues in their workplace. Current Washington State law contains union security provisions in public employee contracts that “require all employees in the workplace to pay union dues or be fired.” SB 5045 would “require the Public Employment Relations Commission to hold a vote about whether to keep a union security provision whenever 30 percent or more of a bargaining unit submits a petition calling for an election.”
SB 5045 met with the opposition of big labor backed Democrats who, ironically and ridiculously, accused the bill of being “undemocratic” and of going “against the clear principle of America of majority rules.” Through some twisted and strange logic, a bill that would grant a vote to workers—the freedom to choose—is “undemocratic.”
The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed the bill on a party-line vote. Unfortunately, it never received a full Senate vote. Republican lawmakers have vowed to try again next year.
The state Senate did pass Senate Bill 5226. It “now languishes in the state House, where it deserves, but is unlikely to receive, a hearing.” That’s because union lobbyists strongly oppose the bill, and the Democrats in control of the state House—just like Jay Inslee—would never oppose their big labor campaign supporters.
SB 5226 is based on the federal Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), which protects “the rights and interests of employees and the public generally” by requiring private-sector labor unions to “annually report information about union activities, leadership, governance and finances to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).” According to the Freedom Foundation, in Washington State, government unions have no legal requirement to inform members how their dues money is spent. SB 5226 would remedy the dark money situation by requiring government unions to file financial reports with the state every year.
As the News Tribune op-ed points out, it is vital that the state Legislature act to protect the rights state workers. Unless it does, “public employees will continue to have little recourse but to pay money to an opaque and unaccountable private special interest group.” At the very least, states the op-ed, “public servants deserve to have the same protections federal law affords their private sector counterparts.”