Freedom Foundation

Benton’s Memories Of Standing Up To Unions Are At Odds With His Record

In an email this week to a constituent demanding to know why he’d introduced SB-6542, which would denude the Freedom Foundation’s efforts to inform home healthcare and childcare providers of their right not to pay union dues or fees, Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) boasted, “I have a 20-year public record of voting against compulsory unionism, and (I) bear the political scars to prove it.”

Actually, we looked up Benton’s record, and if his experiences with Washington state’s public-sector unions have left him with any scars, they’re self-inflicted.

To cite just a few lowlights from his career:

  • in 2002, Benton voted to authorize collective bargaining for state employees;
  • in 2006, he voted to authorize collective bargaining for family child care providers;
  • in 2007, Benton voted to authorize collective bargaining for adult family home providers;
  • he also voted to authorize collective bargaining for employees of state universities and community colleges; and last but not least,
  • in 2008, Sen. Benton voted to authorize collective bargaining for student workers at Washington State University.

In every case, contrary to Benton’s recollection, the legislation provided that employees would be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

And just to put the icing on the cake, this past fall Benton agreed to a “request” from the Washington Federation of State Employees to sign an amicus brief supporting the union’s position in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, defending the constitutionality of mandatory dues laws for public employees.

Benton’s new bill is a thinly veiled attempt to shut down a public outreach program under which the Freedom Foundation is contacting home healthcare and childcare providers to inform them that, since the 2014 Harris v. Quinn ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, they no longer have to pay dues or fees to the union if they choose not to.

Under SB-6542, Benton – that self-proclaimed foe of forced unionization – proposes to make it a civil offense to “use … the names or nonexempt contact information of agency employees or volunteers, with knowledge that the information was obtained through a request made pursuant to this chapter, in order to obtain information exempt under RCW 42.56.250 for a commercial purpose or to harass, stalk, threaten, or intimidate any person.”

Benton’s bill also twists the definition of “commercial purpose” to include, “Inducing any person to cease or refrain from economically supporting any entity.”

Got that? If the Freedom Foundation tells public employees the truth about their constitutional rights and that causes union members to opt out of paying membership dues, we’re breaking the law. Meanwhile, the union can continue to exploit its monopoly on the flow of information to lie with impunity to its own members.

If Sen. Benton believes he has a 20-year record of opposing compulsory unionization, he has a funny way of showing it. Unless, that is, you’re one of the thousands of individual providers who’d prefer that money allocated by Medicaid be used to provide better care for their clients, not line the pockets of union leaders and fund a far-left political agenda that often has nothing to do with workplace issues.

For them, Benton’s assault on the First Amendment is no laughing matter.