One of the few bills specifically requested by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) during the Oregon State Legislature’s 2021 session will no longer be moving forward, thanks to a proposed amendment that forced one of the union’s leaders to all but admit he lied to lawmakers about the legislation’s true purpose.
Sponsored by a trio of House Democrats, House Bill (HB) 3029 would have allowed government unions to be organized online — as in, with the click of a button — while simultaneously denying those same capabilities to workers seeking to change or remove their existing unions.
The ease of electronic organizing campaigns would have given union leaders yet another obvious advantage over the workers they claim to represent.
Of course, that’s hardly a new concept. Under current state law, public-sector union organizing already enjoys considerable advantages over individuals’ corresponding ability to change or remove an existing union. And the union-backed majority in Salem has historically shown it’s more than willing to throw bipartisanship out the window to enact controversial legislation designed to keep it that way.
But this time, the bad faith behind HB 3029 was simply too glaring to justify — which is probably why AFSCME tried to cover it up.
During the bill’s first committee hearing, AFSCME Associate Director Joe Baessler assured lawmakers it was a simple measure intended to align Oregon law with existing federal regulations for private-sector unions, providing written testimony that stated:
“Electronic signatures are regularly used and is already the law at the federal level for private-sector unions and it just makes sense to expand in Oregon for public- sector work.”
But while it’s true a 2015 memorandum from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) evidently opened the door for the use of electronic signature technology in private-sector campaigns, Baessler neglected to tell the committee members the federal guidance applies to all types of union campaigns equally — including efforts to change or remove a union.
Unlike the federal regulations he cited, HB 3029 would have extended online capabilities only to union “card check” campaigns, a type of organizing drive that enables unions to be certified without a secret-ballot election.
Along with providing testimony on the original bill, the Freedom Foundation notified committee members of the union’s lie, and lawmakers subsequently introduced an amendment to apply HB 3029’s provisions regarding electronic signature equally.
Ironically — and somewhat embarrassingly — the amendment would have accomplished exactly what AFSCME had falsely told lawmakers its original bill was supposed to.
When pressed on the amendment during the next committee hearing — a work session in which HB 3029 had originally been set for a vote — Baessler was caught in the lie and forced to come clean about the bill.
In doing so, he also gave a faltering, yet uncharacteristically honest, answer about AFSCME’s complete disregard for dissenting workers rights, saying: “… we didn’t think (campaigns to change or remove a union) was a priority… and we still don’t.”
Evidently, workers who might want to change or get rid of their union are such a non-priority for AFSCME that it would rather sink its own bill than risk giving them a level playing field.
In the wake of Baessler’s lie being exposed and AFSCME refusing to compromise on its initial attempt to keep the wonders of the Internet all to itself, Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene), the committee chair, confirmed during HB 3029’s final hearing that no further action would be taken on the bill.