Freedom Foundation

What the Hell Was the Union Thinking?

A King County Metro Transit employee has filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint with the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), alleging his union not only illegally interfered with his right to opt out of union membership but publicly harassed him when he tried.

In an obvious attempt to discourage its employees from opting out of membership, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 587, published and subsequently endorsed an article in its employee newsletter entitled “What the Hell Are You All Thinking?” written by ATU 587 Financial Secretary/Treasurer Patrick Brady that attacked the actions of taxpayer-funded employees who resigned their membership and revoked authorization for the deduction of ATU 587 dues from their wages.

Immediately after proclaiming that “(W)e have a culture of unity and also allow for a great diversity of opinion on many subjects related to our work life,” Brady then called those transit employees who exercised their right to leave their union “cowards … to say nothing of the free-loading status they have earned for themselves.”

Brady’s article concluded by listing the names of 15 public employees who purportedly resigned their union membership after receiving a Freedom Foundation mail piece informing them of their rights.

James Pratt was one of the names listed by Brady. The article brazenly announced that with the approval of executive leadership it would print the names of all transit employees who revoked union membership going forward.

Pratt has been a diesel mechanic at King County Metro Transit for more than 25 years and is represented by ATU 587 for the purpose of bargaining.

Following the release of the newsletter, Pratt reached out to the Freedom Foundation for assistance. ATU 587’s harassment, threats and intimidation, in addition to being reprehensible are, thankfully, also illegal in the state of Washington.

Pratt’s right to choose for himself whether to join a union and pay dues is protected by the First Amendment and, due in part to legislation passed after Janus v. AFSCME in 2018, by Washington state law, as well.

And Washington law has long recognized it is an unfair labor practice for a union to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce public employees in the exercise of their rights…”

As the Freedom Foundation began the process of filing a complaint against ATU 587 for its interference with Pratt’s right to refrain, the union published a new monthly newsletter in which it expressly stated that its executive board fully endorsed Brady’s letter, effectively informing all other ATU 587 represented employees that if they decide to exercise their constitutional right to opt out, they, too, can expect to be harassed.

ATU 587’s conduct isn’t merely concerning to Pratt and the others who resigned their memberships. Other ATU 587-represented employees submitted a letter to the editor that was published in the union’s March newsletter expressly criticizing the “What the Hell Are You All Thinking?” article and demanding an apology from Brady.

Pratt’s complaint demands that PERC address ATU 587’s actions by ordering the union to apologize in writing, cease threatening to harass employees for opting out of union membership and to distribute a notice to all represented employees subject to Washington state collective bargaining laws that it committed an infraction by harassing union non-members and commits to refrain from similar threats or actions in the future.