Freedom Foundation

Federal reports show Washington unions continued to lose members in 2019

Reports filed this week with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) by prominent government unions in Washington state show continued declines in membership following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME and ongoing efforts by the Freedom Foundation to help public employees understand and exercise their right to stop union dues deductions from their wages.

The LM-2 form filed with DOL’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) for calendar year 2019 by SEIU Local 925 indicated the union had 11,075 members and financial supporters at the end of the year, down 23.6 percent from 14,489 at the end of 2017.

The union’s total revenue declined by 5.3 percent over the same period.

While most of the employees represented by SEIU 925 work for government entities, it also represents some private-sector employees unaffected by Janus.

In addition to the sharp decline in membership, SEIU 925 continues try and block public employees from cancelling their dues deductions. In January 2020, the Freedom Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against SEIU 925 on behalf of public employees whose dues cancellation requests were denied by the union.

Another union representing large numbers of public employees, Teamsters Local 117, also reported a noteworthy decline in membership. As of December 2017, the union claimed 17,027 financial supporters. In its recently filed 2019 LM-2, however, the union reported 15,905 financial supporters, a decline of 6.6 percent, accompanied by a 4.1 percent decline in annual revenue.

Teamsters 117 also represents a mix of public employees freed from mandatory union payments by Janus and private-sector employees still compelled to financially support the union, meaning the membership decline among public employees likely exceeds the 6.6 percent overall decline.

For instance, payroll data obtained by the Freedom Foundation from the Office of Financial Management shows that, as of February 2020, 10.3 percent of the 5,500 Department of Corrections employees represented by Teamsters 117 had no union dues withheld from their wages.

These declines have occurred despite efforts by Teamsters 117 to shut down the Freedom Foundation’s outreach to employees, including filing an unsuccessful unfair labor practice complaint against the Department of Corrections for not blocking Freedom Foundation’s emails from reaching employees’ inboxes.

And additional challenges remain on the horizon. Ongoing litigation by the Freedom Foundation contends the union violated campaign finance laws by refusing to report the activity of its secret — and now shuttered — political fund to the state.

Other government unions in Washington base their finances and reporting on a fiscal year and, accordingly, have already filed LM-2 reports for 2019. In October, the Washington Federation of State Employees disclosed a 27.4 percent membership decline since Janus and, in December, the Public School Employees of Washington reported an 11.2 percent membership loss.

The membership losses experienced by government unions in Washington look especially steep when compared with national trends.

Nationally, SEIU headquarters reported a 4.9 percent decline in financial supporters in 2018 after Janus but recently reported a 2.3 percent increase for 2019. Similarly, AFSCME headquarters reported membership losses of 5.8 percent after Janus but reported a 0.9 percent increase in 2019.

This confirms what the Freedom Foundation has long argued: Many public employees don’t genuinely support their unions but need information and legal assistance to exercise their rights.

The Freedom Foundation’s extensive work with public employees on the West Coast shows that, where those factors are present, noteworthy numbers resign, but the national union numbers show that many public employees around the country remain either unaware of their rights under Janus or unable to overcome union roadblocks to cancelling dues deductions.

As the recent expansion of its efforts into Ohio and Pennsylvania shows, the Freedom Foundation remains committed to ensuring public employees around the country receive the assistance they need to act on their rights and take back control over their paychecks from government unions.