SEIU loses 6 members per hour

SEIU loses 6 members per hour

SEIU loses 6 members per hour

It’s been less than 48 hours since the latest Freedom Foundation email hit the in-boxes of Oregon’s public employees, and already SEIU is down another 290 members.

The message didn’t contain any magical words. It simply informed the employees that SEIU 503’s newest membership application contains deceptive fine print designed to lock them into paying dues indefinitely.

In literal terms, it was probably SEIU 503’s own words that caused the exodus.

Specifically, the union’s membership application contains fine print stating that union dues are “irrevocable” except during a mysterious 15-day cancellation period each year, and that SEIU has the power to keep taking dues from an employee’s paycheck “irrespective of (the employee’s) membership in the union.”

Apparently Oregon’s public employees don’t appreciate being tricked into paying union dues against their will – especially one month before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide in Janus v. AFSCME that they don’t have to.

The email notified the workers of the dues-trap scheme and informed them of their current right to opt out and pay a reduced “agency fee” to the union.

Less than two days after receiving the Freedom Foundation’s message, nearly 300 workers – an average of six every hour – responded by visiting our informational website and completing the form to opt out of SEIU 503.

The outreach had a similar impact on AFSCME’s public employee membership ranks. More than 100 and counting have completed opt-out forms after receiving a similar Freedom Foundation email last Friday.

AFSCME’s membership applications impose nearly identical restrictions to SEIU’s – again in the fine print – that only allow employees to cancel their dues payments during a 10-day window each year.

A week earlier, the Freedom Foundation sent a mailer to both sets of employees carrying the same “Decline to Sign” message. If and when the Janus decision takes effect, the Foundation estimates that the surge of opt-outs over the past few days alone would cost the unions over $444,000 per year.

It’s not surprising the warning message resonated with workers. After all, many of them have probably wondered why both SEIU and AFSCME have, in recent years – and especially in recent months – been so keen on getting them to sign, or “recommit,” to the union by signing one of these cards.

Now they have their answer. It’s an underhanded (though blatant when exposed) attempt to get around the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling in Janus.

The point hammered home in the Freedom Foundation’s message was that signing a union membership card is optional, and public employees should be aware of the consequences before signing away their rights. Workers don’t always know what they’re signing, and the simple fact that SEIU and AFSCME have hidden such deceptive measures in the fine print reveals that, unfortunately, their union doesn’t want them to.

Tricking and trapping public employees into giving their financial support is no way to run an organization.

It’s unfortunate to see SEIU and AFSCME resorting to such methods, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen it happen. The Freedom Foundation is currently suing SEIU on behalf of hundreds of state-paid caregivers who were subjected to a similar irrevocable dues arrangement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Harris v. Quinn.

As with those caregivers, any public employees in Oregon seeking to exercise their constitutional rights relating to union membership can contact the Freedom Foundation for assistance.

In the meantime, we’ll continue informing public employees like those represented by SEIU and AFSCME of their unions’ “Hotel California” scheme.

It’s only information, of course. The rest is up to the workers – but at a going rate of 6 opt-outs per hour, it’s pretty clear how they’ll respond.

Public employees can learn more about their current rights here.

Research & Government Affairs Associate
Ben Straka serves as a Research and Government Affairs Associate for the Freedom Foundation, where his responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts aimed at supporting the organization’s mission through legislative advocacy and public policy expertise. His work has been published in various local news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest and the country, and he has appeared as a guest on radio programs such as The Lars Larson Show, among others. He has regularly testified before the Oregon State Legislature on matters of labor policy and government transparency, has advised local government leaders on labor relations, and has represented employees in administrative proceedings under the state’s collective bargaining laws. Ben first joined the Freedom Foundation in 2016, and holds additional professional experience in the fields of real estate development and construction. He is a native of Eugene, Ore. and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business. He lives in Oregon with his wife.