AFSCME 75, which claims to represent the best interests of, among others, Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) employees, has found a novel way to intimidate workers into union membership. The scheme involves giving union members a leg up in seniority over nonmembers.
In an agency such as the DOC, almost all worker benefits are determined through seniority. The employee with the most tenure gets first pick of what shifts they want to work, what vacation days they want to take, etc.
Earlier this year, however, AFSCME 75 began circulating a “survey” to its members in which one of the questions asked whether they would be in favor of these perks being handed out not according to actual seniority but instead to those most demonstrably supportive of the union.
Specifically, every employee who is also a union member would be entitled to choose before the first nonmember — irrespective of either’s years of service.
There have also been reports AFSCME 75 is attempting to insert this type of provision into its new collective bargaining agreement with DOC.
This despicable scare tactic is further evidence — as if any were needed — of AFSCME 75’s prioritizing its own bottom line above the rights of workers.
As Freedom Foundation has been quick to point out, it is a clear a violation of both state law and the U.S. Constitution for a public employer, such as the DOC, to give preferential based on union status.
Oregon law makes it an unfair labor practice for a public employer to discriminate regarding “hiring, tenure, or any terms or conditions of employment” for the purpose of encouraging or discouraging union membership. (ORS 243.672).
Any attempt to confuse an employee’s seniority with their membership in a union is a “condition of employment” and, as such, cannot be used to coerce a worker to join the union.
Even more pointedly, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically held in last summer’s landmark Janus v. AFSCME ruling that the right to not financially support a public-sector union is protected by the First Amendment.
A public employee has an absolute right to not become a union member and to not pay money to a union if he or she so desires. If a public employer discriminates against workers by denying seniority on the basis of their having chosen to exercise their right not to be a union member, the employer can be held liable.
Why would AFSCME 75 even attempt to engage in these types of tactics? Money, of course.
AFSCME is far more interested in a healthy bottom line than is the wishes of its members — let alone nonmembers. Thousands of government workers, including DOC employees, have opted out of paying dues since Janus. And faced with the prospect of irrelevancy or extinction, unions have no qualms about bending a few rules in the interest of self-preservation.
The Freedom Foundation sees the threat represented by AFSCME 75’s lawless behavior for what it is. However, if anything like this were to become part of a DOC contract, the Foundation stands ready to assist in challenging it legally.
By engaging in tactics like this, AFSCME 75 has shed pretense of caring for workers or supporting their rights. As always, it’s about the money.