When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was wrong to force people to support causes they find objectionable, we thought Oregon’s unions would get the message.
Not all of them did. One is backing a bill to do an end-run around the decision.
House Bill 2643 — introduced by Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, at the request of the Oregon School Employees Association — would compel the state to prop up unions. Public-sector workers would have no way to opt out. Why is that a fair way to treat workers?
The bill is a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus decision. The court said public-sector unions had to stop forcing nonmembers to pay fees without their consent. The “First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them,” the court said.
Public-sector unions across the country were worried. The decision hit them in the pocketbook. It also created an undeniable problem of free-riders. Oregon public-sector unions, for instance, must represent workers who are not members of the union in labor negotiations and in disputes — even if nonmembers aren’t contributing a dime.
The OSEA solution is a mandatory payment from the state to unions. The bill would have a public employer collect from itself a percentage of the total wages of public-sector employees served by unions. The percentage is left blank in the bill. That money would be passed along to unions. It’s important to emphasize that this law wouldn’t give workers a way to opt out of paying these de facto dues. How nice for the unions.
The proposed law states that the money the union gets can’t be used for political purposes, such as supporting a candidate or a ballot measure. If that’s supposed to dodge the idea the money won’t go to political activity, it fails. Making a union’s other operations flush abets its ability to use other money it collects for political activity. And the very nature of a union bargaining with the state over pay, health care, retirement benefits, working conditions is a political question about how the state should be run.
Unions should be voluntary organizations supported by their members. It’s wrong for the state to mandate funding for them — especially based on wages of workers who may want nothing to do with them.
Editor’s note: This editorial has been corrected. It had incorrectly described who is represented by the Oregon School Employees Association.