Are government unions finally starting to stand up for the workers they represent? Or are they still playing politics, trying to stop the bleeding of membership and massive financial losses from a mass exodus?
Membership in the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) has been in steady decline for several years and stood at 65 percent in July.
But that’s not the bottom.
Following Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation mandating COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment for state workers and healthcare professionals, the Freedom Foundation’s website began receiving an increase in traffic, with dozens of messages coming in daily from state employees wanting to opt-out of WFSE, Teamsters 117 and more.
A week later, Inslee extended the mandate to teachers, and the opt-outs started pouring in from teachers represented by the Washington Education Association.
And, after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown decided to follow King Inslee’s dictates, we started seeing the same thing from Oregon state employees.
This is the beautiful thing about right-to-work. When workers don’t feel they are being represented, they don’t have to pay dues. And, at the moment, a lot of public employees don’t feel they are being represented.
Most of the unions in Washington have adopted the same posture towards the governor’s vaccine mandate, conceding his authority to require vaccination but “…insisting on negotiating the impacts of vaccine requirements…”
It does not appear they are trying to end the mandate. Instead, unions want things like paid time off for people who may get sick from the vaccine.
On Aug. 26, WFSE filed a lawsuit against the governor, claiming he refused to bargain with the union in good faith over the impact and implementation of his proclamation. The first hearing will be on Sept. 6 in Thurston County Superior Court.
One of the concerns WFSE raised in its lawsuit is that there are no clear “…contingency plans for agencies if large numbers of employees quit or get fired.”
But even if the union wins, or at least gets an extension of the vaccination deadline, it won’t change the underlying vaccine mandate, though WFSE will certainly take a victory lap to try and reel in its fleeing members.
If the governor wins, he will have beaten his greatest political and campaign ally, and will then face the task of following through on what could be one of the most dangerous and reckless executive policy decisions he’s ever made.
And that’s saying something.
If the governor wins and doesn’t voluntarily modify accommodations and deadlines, it could lead to the taxpayers, public employees, unions, and the Freedom Foundation all coming together to support placing limits on the governor’s emergency powers.
After issuing 512 proclamations since 2020, it’s time to bring Inslee’s monarchy to an end. By comparison, prior to 2020, Inslee only made 77 proclamations in the previous six years combined — and 10 of those were calls for special legislative sessions.