Freedom Foundation

Anti-Janus bills advance in Olympia

This week, union-backed legislation designed to help shield government unions from losing members in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling making dues payment optional was advanced out of legislative committees in Olympia.

SB 5623 was passed 4-3 along party lines by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee while the House version, HB 1575, was passed 4-3 along party lines by the Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. Democrats on the committees voted for the proposals and Republicans against.

The bills’ union-affiliated sponsors have made it clear they see the legislation as a way to boost union membership and dues collection and to undermine the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which held that forcing public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment.

As originally introduced, the bills would:

  • make it easier for unions deduct dues from public employees’ wages and harder for public employees to cancel such deductions;
  • undermine public employees’ ability to vote on union representation in secret ballot elections; and,
  • eliminate unions’ legal liability under state law for the agency fees they unconstitutionally collected from nonmember public employees prior to Janus.

Amendments adopted in committee would entirely do away with secret-ballot elections for union organizing — permitting unions to collect “votes” from employees one on one — and implement a mechanism intended to allow SEIU 775 to continue deducting union dues from the wages of Medicaid-paid home caregivers in an attempt to skirt federal Medicaid law barring such deductions.

An amendment proposed by Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) would have specified that a public employee could cancel the deduction of union dues from his or her wages using any of the means the bill allows to authorize the deductions in the first place — in writing, electronically or with a “recorded voice authorization.”

Speaking against the amendment, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), stated,

“The concern I have with this amendment is, really, it’s impossible to verify a voice, even if its recorded, as being from an actual member or individual who’s authorized to withdraw.”

But as Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) pointed out, the underlying bill — of which Sen. Keiser is a co-sponsor — permits unions to begin dues deductions on the basis of an employees’ “recorded voice authorization.” Why shouldn’t that also be a viable means of cancelling dues deductions?

The reality is that recorded statements should not be permitted for either dues deduction authorizations — which can involve agreeing to complicated membership terms as long as 2,000 words sight unseen — or cancellations.

Nevertheless, the exchange confirms the underlying motive of the bill is simply to authorize whatever tactics unions wish to employ to continue taking dues from the paychecks of as many public employees as possible for as long as possible.