Freedom Foundation
hearing-sb5045-FEATURED.jpg

Senate Committee Hears Bill to Allow Public Employees to Deauthorize Forced Dues

When it comes to protecting the rights of public employees and allowing them to be in control of their workplace representation, Washington state’s laws are some of the worst in the nation.

Legislation recently introduced by Sen. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) would take a modest step in the right direction.

Senate Bill 5045 would empower unionized public employees to better control their workplace representation by giving them an option to democratically decide whether they want their bargaining unit to be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

The idea isn’t new. Under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), if at least 30 percent of the employees in a workplace sign a petition calling for one, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will hold a “deauthorization” election in which the employees determine whether to eliminate a union security provision from their contract. Union security provisions require employers to fire any employee who refuses to pay union dues or fees.

However, the NLRA only applies to unions and collective bargaining in the private sector. State law regulates collective bargaining by non-federal government employees.

To date, 25 states have banned union security provisions in government union contracts, giving public employees the ability to freely choose whether to join a union and pay dues. Other states, including California and Oregon, have included a deauthorization process based on the NLRA in their state laws governing public-sector unions.

Nationwide, fully three-quarters of union workers live in states that have either banned union security clauses or allow employees to vote to deauthorize them (see chart below).

So far, Washington has done neither. While private-sector union workers in Washington can petition to eliminate a union security provision, state law does not currently provide any mechanism for public employees to do so, leaving them little alternative but to pay union dues to a private organization or be fired.  

SB 5045 seeks to remedy this situation by creating a union security deauthorization process for public employees based on 80-year-old federal precedent.

The bill received a hearing before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Wednesday.

Watch Sen. Angel summarize SB5045 for the committee below:

Two union lobbyists testified against the bill. The lobbyist for the Washington Public Employees Association argued that the bill was a “solution in search of a problem” because union members already vote to ratify their contracts.

However, he failed to mention that (1) there is no legal requirement for unions to hold a contract ratification vote, though most do; (2) there is never any opportunity to vote specifically on the inclusion of a union security provision, the whole contract must be either approved or rejected; and (3) union nonmembers, the people least likely to approve of a forced dues requirement, are excluded from participating in contract ratification votes.

He also argued that allowing union members to deauthorize the union security provision of a collective bargaining agreement would make it harder to enforce other parts of the contract, though he failed to explain why this would be the case. The law is narrowly tailored to match federal precedent and only allows the union security provision to be deauthorized.

Similarly, a lobbyist for Professional and Technical Employees Local 17 argued that SB 5045 was “harmful to the middle class” and would “risk the safety and livelihood of our nurses, engineers and many more of our members.” She also failed to explain how SB 5045 would bring these travesties about.

In addition to the Freedom Foundation, five current and former union workers testified in support of the legislation.

One former state employee testified that while the bill “is an incremental step in helping state employees regain some of their rights, it doesn’t go far enough.”   

Another employee of the Kitsap Public Health District testified that most of his bargaining unit had signed a petition to remove the union security requirement from their contract before they realized there was no legal mechanism for them to do so.

Watch the full testimony on SB5045 below:

State

Sector

RTW?

Deauthorization?

Union Workers

Alabama

Private

Yes

N/A

131,395

Alabama

Public

Yes

N/A

91,074

Arizona

Private

Yes

N/A

66,973

Arizona

Public

Yes

N/A

79,844

Arkansas

Private

Yes

N/A

20,333

Arkansas

Public

Yes

N/A

23,349

Florida

Private

Yes

N/A

211,587

Florida

Public

Yes

N/A

317,073

Georgia

Private

Yes

N/A

139,803

Georgia

Public

Yes

N/A

107,772

Idaho

Private

Yes

N/A

13,680

Idaho

Public

Yes

N/A

22,038

Indiana

Private

Yes

N/A

190,216

Indiana

Public

Yes

N/A

84,276

Iowa

Private

Yes

N/A

86,549

Iowa

Public

Yes

N/A

84,169

Kansas

Private

Yes

N/A

56,212

Kansas

Public

Yes

N/A

49,357

Louisiana

Private

Yes

N/A

55,960

Louisiana

Public

Yes

N/A

38,585

Michigan

Private

Yes

N/A

389,295

Michigan

Public

Yes

N/A

265,458

Mississippi

Private

Yes

N/A

30,653

Mississippi

Public

Yes

N/A

13,279

Nebraska

Private

Yes

N/A

37,328

Nebraska

Public

Yes

N/A

41,050

Nevada

Private

Yes

N/A

118,934

Nevada

Public

Yes

N/A

66,532

North Carolina

Private

Yes

N/A

88,894

North Carolina

Public

Yes

N/A

95,076

North Dakota

Private

Yes

N/A

12,776

North Dakota

Public

Yes

N/A

16,129

Oklahoma

Private

Yes

N/A

61,482

Oklahoma

Public

Yes

N/A

82,832

South Carolina

Private

Yes

N/A

50,335

South Carolina

Public

Yes

N/A

35,690

South Dakota

Private

Yes

N/A

9,071

South Dakota

Public

Yes

N/A

11,878

Tennessee

Private

Yes

N/A

90,182

Tennessee

Public

Yes

N/A

98,463

Texas

Private

Yes

N/A

318,812

Texas

Public

Yes

N/A

328,560

Utah

Private

Yes

N/A

31,252

Utah

Public

Yes

N/A

36,152

Virginia

Private

Yes

N/A

107,174

Virginia

Public

Yes

N/A

121,647

Wisconsin

Public

Yes

N/A

144,962

Wyoming

Private

Yes

N/A

9,679

Wyoming

Public

Yes

N/A

6,847

Alaska

Private

No

Yes

25,635

California

Private

No

Yes

1,196,304

California

Public

No

Yes

1,382,643

Colorado

Private

No

Yes

109,668

Connecticut

Private

No

Yes

98,040

D.C.

Private

No

Yes

12,706

Delaware

Private

No

Yes

18,232

Hawaii

Private

No

Yes

64,251

Illinois

Private

No

Yes

486,071

Kentucky

Private

No

Yes

152,469

Maine

Private

No

Yes

27,954

Maryland

Private

No

Yes

123,257

Massachusetts

Private

No

Yes

189,240

Minnesota

Private

No

Yes

192,857

Missouri

Private

No

Yes

180,864

Montana

Private

No

Yes

25,870

New Hampshire

Private

No

Yes

20,767

New Jersey

Private

No

Yes

298,880

New Mexico

Private

No

Yes

15,010

New York

Private

No

Yes

1,097,925

Ohio

Private

No

Yes

357,914

Oregon

Private

No

Yes

97,115

Oregon

Public

No

Yes

126,235

Pennsylvania

Private

No

Yes

404,429

Rhode Island

Private

No

Yes

38,379

Vermont

Private

No

Yes

11,869

Washington

Private

No

Yes

299,315

West Virginia

Private

No

Yes

56,714

Wisconsin

Private

No

Yes

191,761

Alaska

Public

No

No

49,370

Colorado

Public

No

No

96,620

Connecticut

Public

No

No

121,103

D.C.

Public

No

No

21,064

Delaware

Public

No

No

22,537

Hawaii

Public

No

No

65,212

Illinois

Public

No

No

396,047

Kentucky

Public

No

No

73,138

Maine

Public

No

No

47,401

Maryland

Public

No

No

225,350

Massachusetts

Public

No

No

239,519

Minnesota

Public

No

No

188,048

Missouri

Public

No

No

84,261

Montana

Public

No

No

33,866

New Hampshire

Public

No

No

45,998

New Jersey

Public

No

No

332,736

New Mexico

Public

No

No

40,387

New York

Public

No

No

1,002,316

Ohio

Public

No

No

316,439

Pennsylvania

Public

No

No

348,220

Rhode Island

Public

No

No

43,290

Vermont

Public

No

No

25,698

Washington

Public

No

No

268,006

West Virginia

Public

No

No

36,504

Total Union Workers in RTW and/or Deauthorization States/Sectors:

11,893,041

Percentage of Total Union Workers

74.3%

Total Union Workers in Non-RTW and Non-Deauthorization States/Sectors:

4,123,130

Percentage of Total Union Workers

25.7%

Information in the above chart is compiled from unionstats.com, a project of Barry Hirsch, Georgia State University, and David Macpherson, Trinity University.