When the current session of the Oregon State Legislature convened in January, the state’s government employee unions — through their accomplices in elected office — uncorked a Hail Mary pass they hoped would halt the massive membership losses they’ve suffered since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Janus v. AFSCME last summer.
On March 18, the House Committee on Business and Labor caught that pass, voting along party lines to send House Bill 2016 to the floor with a recommendation to pass.
HB 2016 is the unions’ legislative response to Janus, which banned mandatory union dues and fees for public employees, and to the Freedom Foundation, a West Coast policy organization that has been working tirelessly since the ruling was issued to inform government workers of their newly affirmed rights to opt out and pay nothing to their union.
Freedom Foundation Oregon Director Aaron Withe, calling the measure a “union wish-list,” noted that it specifically “targets our outreach efforts and attempts to provide the pro-tax, big-government liberals in this state with a continued funding mechanism from the unions.”
Rep. Greg Barreto (R-Cove), who serves as vice chair of Business and Labor, expressed his concerns with the bill during the work session, stating, “(I)n my opinion, this is just an obvious maneuver by the majority party that gives unions a power grab to access employee information that is unavailable to anyone else.”
Some of the goals of House Bill 2016 include, but are not limited to:
- requiring the state to hand the unions personal employee information, including information exempt from public disclosure, on a periodic basis. This includes personal addresses;
- granting the union the ability to determine what is “reasonable conduct” for all attendees at union related meetings in the workplace;
- making it an unfair labor practice for a public employer to knowingly permit use of their electronic mail system to discourage union membership or dues authorizations; and,
- allowing unions to authorize dues deductions over the phone while giving unions the ability to determine how these authorizations might be canceled in the collective bargaining agreement.
Freedom Foundations full memorandum can be read here.
Withe said, “It’s a backhanded compliment to our efforts that they’ve been forced to take this type of action. If unions like SEIU wouldn’t have seen such dramatic losses, then they would not 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 the state.
The Oregon School Employees Association has lost 30 percent in the same time period.
“The point of Janus,” Withe said, “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, 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.”
Contact: Boaz Dillon, Policy Analyst