Freedom Foundation

Washington House passes anti-Janus bill along party lines

On Monday night, the Washington State House of Representatives voted 57-41 to pass HB 1575. The Democrat majority passed the bill along party lines.

The measure contains a package of changes sought by government unions in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Janus v. AFSCME, which held mandatory union dues/fees requirements are unconstitutional for public employees, and subsequent Freedom Foundation efforts to inform public employees of their rights. As of January, for instance, 23.5 percent of state agency workers represented by the Washington Federation of State Employees had successfully stopped union deductions from their wages.

As outlined in detail in the Freedom Foundation policy analysis, HB 1575 would:

  • make it easier for unions to deduct dues from public employees’ wages and harder for public employees to cancel such deductions;
  • eliminate unions’ legal liability under state law for illegally collecting dues or fees from public employees; and,
  • strip public employees of the ability to vote on union representation in secret ballot elections.

The majority voted down amendments that would have:

  • removed language in the bill allowing unions to initiate dues deductions from a public employees’ wages upon “recorded voice authorization” and permitted public employees to cancel dues deductions from their wages in writing or electronically, the same means permitted to authorize dues deductions;
  • brought state law into compliance with Janus v. AFSCME by requiring that government employers only deduct dues from a public employee if the employee has freely and affirmatively acknowledged and waived in writing his or her constitutional right to not pay any union dues;
  • required public employers to initiate and cease union dues deductions at the direction of the employee, not the union, and specified that any disputes about whether an employee must pay dues be settled between the union and the employee;
  • required public employers to receive an indemnification agreement from a union before collecting dues on the union’s behalf from public employees’ wages;
  • removed language in the bill requiring public employers to only process dues deduction cancellations submitted in accordance with union policies;
  • removed a section protecting unions from legal liability under state law for unconstitutionally collecting union fees from nonmembers; and,
  • required dues deduction authorizations and cancellations to be submitted to the public employer, not the union.

There is simply no legitimate justification for permitting unions’ use of unethical and coercive tactics to take money from public employees. And to simultaneously grant unions special immunity when they cross whatever legal lines remain grossly disrespects the ideal that the law applies equally to all.

Why bother having laws at all if politically powerful special interests are permitted to violate them without consequence?

Lastly, stripping public employees of their ability to democratically vote on whether to unionize in a secret-ballot election exposes unions’ contempt for public employees, who should be able to make their decisions free from coercion.

HB 1575 is simply an exercise of raw political power that only benefits government unions and the politicians whose campaigns will benefit from the dues seized from public employees’ wages.

Hopefully the Senate takes a dimmer view of this misguided legislation, but the Freedom Foundation is already preparing legal challenges in the event it becomes law.