When Thurston County employees learned of their “ability to resign their union membership and object to paying any more than an “agency fee” to support the union’s representational activities,” a group acted on their right. Nearly 20 county employees “turned in the union’s form to resign membership and pay the reduced representation fee” during the 30-day window (the month of January) in which the Washington State Council of County and City Employees (WSCCCE) permits workers to become agency fee payers.
Many employees objected to paying union dues because, as is often the case, the money is used by union executives to “support political and other nonessential activity unrelated to collective bargaining.”
The WSCCE chose to respond to the Thurston County employees by “initiating four months of harassment and intimidation.” Meanwhile, the union continued to collect the full dues of the employees. Making matter worse, when the “objecting employees attempted to participate in the union’s contract ratification vote,” union leaders turned them away despite the fact that they were members in good standing (they continued to pay dues).
In April, after repeated requests, the employees were finally invited to meet with the WSCCCE’s deputy director, J. Pat Thompson. The employees who attended “were informed by Thompson that the union was refusing to honor their requests.”
Perhaps the most revealing part of the meeting occurred when a union representative in attendance—Hannah Franks—admitted that the union needed “money to get our people into office.” For that reason, the union would refuse to grant the objecting employees their constitutional right.
In July, the Freedom Foundation sued the WSCCCE on behalf of 15 Thurston County employees on the grounds that the union violated their constitutional rights. Last week, rather than bringing the case to court, the WSCCCE agreed to a settlement.
According to the Freedom Foundation, “under the terms of the final settlement agreement, WSCCCE not only agreed to repay with interest all of the dues it had illegally collected from the employees since January, but it agreed to pay the Freedom Foundation’s legal costs, which totaled nearly $16,000.”