By the Numbers: Union Decertifications in Washington

By the Numbers: Union Decertifications in Washington

By the Numbers: Union Decertifications in Washington

Union bosses like Geoff Simpson frequently claim that “Public sector and all unions are really some of the most democratic organizations there are in this country.” 

In reality, the manner in which public sector unions function is often anything but democratic.

study of states with similar collective bargaining laws to Washington found that most public sector unions were certified so long ago that few if any employees currently represented have ever had the chance to participate in a vote to determine their representation.

Furthermore, union members who no longer wish to be represented by their union or who want to be represented by a different union must attempt to complete a difficult decertification process which is heavily tilted in favor of the union.  

The Freedom Foundation obtained the records for all petitions filed to change or eliminate a public sector union since 2010 via a public records request to the Public Employment Relations Commission.

Documents obtained indicate:

  • There have been 89 petitions to decertify or change public sector unions since 2010.
  • Of these, nine were dismissed on procedural grounds like failing to submit a petition in the proper time window.
  • Of the 25 decertification petitions that ended up in a vote, workers rejected the union 15 times (60 percent).
  • Of the 36 petitions to change unions that ended up in a vote, workers voted to change their union 33 times (92 percent). 
  • On average, bargaining units filing for decertification contained 51 employees.
  • Bargaining units seeking to change unions contained 34 employees, on average.
  • The Public Employment Relations Commission estimates that there are upwards of 2,000 public sector bargaining units in Washington State.

Attempted Decertifications of Washington Public Unions: 2010-2013

Attempted Decertifications of Washington Public Unions 2010-2013 

Petitions to Change Unions in Washington’s Public Sector: 2010-2013

 Petitions to Change Unions in Washington's Public Sector: 2010-2013

Director of Research and Government Affairs
As the Freedom Foundation’s Director of Research and Government Affairs, Maxford Nelsen leads the team working to advance the Freedom Foundation’s mission through strategic research, public policy advocacy, and labor relations. Max regularly testifies on labor issues before legislative bodies and his research has formed the basis of several briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. Max’s work has been published in local newspapers around the country and in national outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, National Review, and the American Spectator. His work on labor policy issues has been featured in media outlets like the New York Times, Fox News, and PBS News Hour. He is a frequent guest on local radio stations like 770 KTTH and 570 KVI. From 2019-21, Max was a presidential appointee to the Federal Service Impasses Panel within the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which resolves contract negotiation disputes between federal agencies and labor unions. Prior to joining the Freedom Foundation in 2013, Max worked for and the Washington Policy Center and interned with the Heritage Foundation. Max holds a labor relations certificate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated magna cum laude from Whitworth University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. A Washington native, he lives in Olympia with his wife and sons.