Portland’s Laborer’s International Union of North America Local 483 once won its argument that the city should release the names of city employees not in the union. But now that somebody wants to know who is in the union, the union says the same disclosure should not apply to it.
On Wednesday, the Portland City Council even voted to fight release of the union members after the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said the city can’t keep secret the names of unionized employees.
Secrecy is OK for unions but not other people? The argument makes no sense.
The city and the union argue that releasing the names would violate their contract and labor laws, according to The Oregonian. But Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said that does not supersede state public records law. Underhill says individuals in the union would need to make a specific request for nondisclosure, making it clear why they, in particular, should be exempted from public records laws.
For the union, the release of the names could be like helping its enemy. The request for the names comes from Ben Straka, who works for the Freedom Foundation. The Freedom Foundation works to reduce the power of unions in government. And the Freedom Foundation could attempt to contact union members and make them aware of their rights regarding union membership. That could in turn reduce the amount of money available for the union to do political lobbying.
Unions have other worries these days. The U.S. Supreme Court may decide in Janus v. AFSCME that laws requiring public workers who don’t want to be in the union to pay fees to represent them violates the First Amendment. That could further reduce union budgets.
The concerns the union has should not give it the right to refuse disclosure of the same kind of information it has received in the past.