73 Percent of Washington’s union members support automatic recertification elections
SEATTLE— A poll of union households in Washington state reveals strong support for automatic recertification elections that would allow union workers to vote on whether they want to continue to be represented by their union. Seventy-three percent of respondents, all of whom were union members, supported automatic recertification elections, with only twenty-three percent opposed. The survey was conducted to collect data for the launch of Washington Policy Center’s (WPC’s) new Center for Worker Rights.
Regularly scheduled recertification elections would enable union workers to confirm their support for their union, reject that union, or choose a different union to represent them. Such periodic elections would give union members the opportunity to vote regularly on their union’s performance and thus increase union accountability to members. Currently, union members must navigate a complex and often intimidating process if they want to hold an election to have a say in whether their union should continue to represent them. The process is so difficult that many long-time union members have never had the opportunity to vote in a union election.
“When we choose a politician to represent us, it’s not a permanent position—every politician has to face regular elections no matter how popular he or she may be,” explained Erin Shannon, director of WPC’s Center for Worker Rights. “Why should labor unions be any different? Every union worker should have a choice about whether he wants to be represented by a union, and if so, which one. It’s a basic principle of fair representation.”
The poll results in Washington are not unique. A national poll asking the same question of union members two years ago revealed seventy percent believe workers should be able to vote regularly on whether they want their union to continue representing them. Clearly, greater union accountability is popular with union members in every state.
Union members' overwhelming support for automatic recertification elections is not an indication of their satisfaction with their union. When union members were asked whether they would choose to remain a paying member in their union or leave, seventy-five percent responded that they would choose to stay.
“These workers support their union, but they also support their right to reaffirm that support by participating in regularly scheduled recertification elections,” Shannon said. “Why should unions workers have to navigate a complex and intimidating process just to have a say in who represents them and bargains on their behalf?"
Fifty-one percent of union members always agreed (8 percent) or mostly agreed (43 percent) with their union’s political activities. Forty-one percent of the members mostly (33 percent) or always (8 percent) disagreed. Forty-one percent self-identified as Democrats, twenty-two percent as Republicans, and thirty-four percent as Independents.
“Union members in our state have a variety of political views, but they are unified on one thing and that’s the right to vote regularly on union representation,” said Shannon. “It’s time for Washington’s unions to give it to them.”