National Employee Freedom Week starts today—Union workers say they want more choice

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
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Aug 21, 2017

Today marks the beginning of National Employment Freedom Week, a nationwide campaign dedicated to empowering union workers by helping them understand their rights when it comes to union membership and the dues they pay.   The goal is to provide the state-specific information union workers need so they can make the decision that is best for them about union membership, including identifying non-union alternatives that may better suit their needs.

Because Washington is one of the 22 states that do not have a right-to-work (RTW) law, union members in this state do not have the freedom to leave their union entirely.  In a non-RTW state, union workers are limited to two options—they can become an agency fee payer or a religious/conscientious objector.  A third option is to try to decertify the union.  (To learn more about how to opt out of union membership in Washington, check out this step-by-step resource from the Freedom Foundation.)

Becoming an agency fee payer means a worker opts out of union membership but continues to pay dues for the union’s cost of representing them in collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment.  Becoming a religious or conscientious means a worker’s full dues equivalent will be deducted but made payable a non-profit charity instead of the union.  An objector is not a member of the union, but still covered by the labor contract the union negotiates with the employer.

Either way, the worker is forced to allow the union to negotiate with the employer on their behalf and relinquish a portion of each paycheck.

The third option, decertification, is a time-consuming and complex process that allows workers to vote in a special election to maintain the status quo, replace their union with a different union, or reject union representation entirely.  The difficulty in meeting the requirements necessary for a certification election means it is not a frequent occurrence. 

In Washington, 99% public workers have not voted in a union certification election in over five years.  In fact, such elections are so rare than many long-time unionized state employees have never had the opportunity to vote in a union certification election to decide whether they want to be represented by a union, or whether they would like to change unions.

A national survey released today reveals union members want such opportunity.  According to the survey, more than 70% of union employees support having the opportunity to regularly vote on whether to keep representation from their current union.  That is not to say they don’t like their union—a survey released last year showed 71% would not leave their union if given a choice.  Clearly, however, they would like to have that choice.

Regular recertification elections, which WPC supported this past legislative session, would not only give union workers the opportunity they very clearly want, it would also inject competition into the process and force unions to routinely convince workers of their value, which in turn would encourage innovation, increase efficiency and improve customer service.

Despite overwhelming support from their own members for regular recertification elections, unions are adamantly opposed.  So much for representing their members.