Bowing to pressure from union leaders who’ve witnessed an alarming drop in their membership numbers following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that bans mandatory dues or fees, Democrats in the Oregon State House of Representatives have taken another step toward approving a patently unconstitutional “fix.”
On March 27, following a heated debate lasting more than an hour, HB- 2016 was passed out of the House on a 36-22 straight party line vote and now moves to the Senate. The measure would act as a shield to protect government unions from the devastating impacts of Janus v. AFSCME, which affirmed that compulsory union participation violates the First Amendment rights of public employees.
The Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit West Coast policy organization working to inform public employees of their rights under Janus to opt out of union dues, has vowed to challenge the bill in court if it wins approval in the Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown — as appears likely.
HB-2016, described by the Freedom Foundation as a “union wish list,” would undermine Janus in myriad ways, including making it easier to join a union but much harder to opt out and classifying emails discouraging union membership as an “unfair labor practice.”
Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence) bitterly criticized the measure, noting, “As we speak, the Department of Administrative Services continues to deduct unions dues from wages of government employees without authorization and in violation of federal law.”
House Bill 2016 seeks to enshrine these practices into law.
Rep. Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles) pointed out the bill’s clear goal to circumvent Janus. “In my opinion,” he said, “it now seems the Oregon Legislature, in a massive overreach with potential issues of constitutionality, wants to press its thumb on the scale to re-unbalance what the Supreme Court has ruled on.”
His full comments can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/5XPGliaBpxs
Bonham was equally critical of language in HB-2016 under which unionized employees could address union business while still being paid by taxpayers. He noted, “So this seems like we are going to use tax dollars to negotiate against the state and, thus, potentially against the taxpayers’ best interest.”
Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove) voiced vehement disapproval of the bill, lamenting, “Sometimes in the Legislature we are accused of nepotism. Nepotism is the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. Well, this bill isn’t too far from doing the same thing.”
He continued, “It’s certainly no secret that unions use their numbers, dollars and influence to elect political party members who put out bills like this in order to curry favor, build their political army and win elections.”
His full comments can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/Ue1ROjn2zTc
Freedom Foundation Oregon Director Aaron Withe characterized HB 2016 as further evidence of his organization’s effectiveness.
“It’s a backhanded compliment to our efforts that they’ve been forced to take this type of action,” he said. “If unions like SEIU hadn’t seen such dramatic losses, they wouldn’t be introducing this type of legislation.”
In just the first eight months after Janus, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503, one of the largest public-sector unions in Oregon, has seen 26 percent of its members leave the fold, according to state numbers obtained by the Freedom Foundation.
The Oregon School Employees Association has lost 30 percent in the same time period.
“The point of Janus,” Withe explained, “was to protect the right of government employees to decide for themselves whether the representation services provided by their union were worth what they were paying in dues.
“When thousands decided it wasn’t,” he said, “the unions went into a panic mode and HB 2016 is the result,” he said. “It’s unconstitutional and it won’t hold up to a court challenge, but it illustrates perfectly how much influence the unions have over the political processes in Oregon. And why that’s a terrible thing for the people of this state.”
The full hearing can be viewed here: http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=26354
Contact: Aaron Withe, Oregon Director