Court case could challenge SEIU’s clout

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

One reason Democrats continue to politically dominate Oregon is the strength of organizations such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). That public employees’ union represents local, state and federal employees throughout the country. It has been one of the most powerful political entities in this state for the past few decades.

SEIU’s impressive machinery is dependent upon a handful of factors. Perhaps the most important is the nonstop growth and expansion of government, including the number of public employees.

Good economic times are used as an excuse to create new programs. Conversely, bad times are argued by proponents of big government to demonstrate the public’s further need for services.

Either way, public employee unions such as SEIU grow their memberships. Long-term costs continue to escalate and are placed fully on the shoulders of taxpayers and business owners.

SEIU’s widespread use of automatic government payroll deductions to collect its union dues is another source of its political muscle.  Since its members are public employees, the State is essentially used as a collection agent that gathers dues straight from workers’ paychecks and funnels them directly to the union.

SEIU then uses the government-collected dues to fund its multi-million dollar political war chest and to pay its lobbyists. Those lobbyists keep the gravy train rolling by investing the “union share” of the taxpayer funded government payrolls to pay their own salaries. Their only purpose is to lobby for better SEIU salaries and benefits funded by more taxpayer dollars.

This accumulation of political influence has become a veritable industry in Oregon. SEIU had no fewer than 15 paid Oregon lobbyists on August first.

The amounts and frequencies of SEIU’s financial contributions to the campaigns of Democratic candidates and officeholders throughout Oregon clearly demonstrates the organization’s clout. Once elected, those officeholders may feel inordinately beholden to the union whose contributions helped get them elected.

Moreover, SEIU has a veritable army of “volunteers” that vigorously campaign for the union and its chosen candidates. Their well-founded expectation is that their efforts will be rewarded through collective bargaining negotiated increases in salaries and benefits that will be supported by the same political candidates they are helping through canvassing, phone banks, ballot collections and generous campaign contributions.

All of that campaign and lobbying work appears to be paying off handsomely.  SEIU and its members have just recently approved a new four-year contract. This deal that benefits more than 20,000 state workers will also ultimately affect everyone who pays taxes in Oregon.

The new contract includes a 1.48 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) this December. Another 2.75 percent COLA is scheduled for December 2016.

Moreover, the new contract calls of yet another day of paid leave to be taken the Friday after Thanksgiving, ensuring a four-day paid Thanksgiving holiday for all SEIU members.

The new contract calls for most union members to have 99 percent of their health insurance premium costs paid for by Oregon taxpayers. This represents a two percent increase from the 97 percent currently covered on their behalf.

All of these terms apply regardless of whether the state’s economic conditions improve, stagnate or worsen. They serve to insulate SEIU and its members from the reality of near certain Oregon budgetary deficits. They will be immune to the impending multi-billion dollar shortfall caused by increased costs for the Oregon Health Plan and the Public Employees Retirement System, starting in the 2017-19 biennium.

However, SEIU may have some potential problems looming on the horizon. A lawsuit has been filed against the union in the U.S. District Court in Eugene. The suit also names Governor Kate Brown and the directors of the Department of Human Services and Department of Administrative Services as defendants.

The plaintiff in the case is a homecare worker in Bend. The employee does not wish to be represented by the union, never agreed in writing to be one of its members and does not want money taken from her check to support political activities that she does not agree with.

A similar case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. In Harris v. Quinn, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, a personal care provider who did not wish to join the organization or fund its political activities.

Public employee union membership has plummeted following each court decision that prevents governments from collecting mandatory union dues or collecting “fair share” payments in lieu of union dues. This would appear to indicate many union members do not support how their dues are being spent.

SEIU and other public employee unions continue to take advantage of the fact that Oregon is not a right to work state. They will continue to grow and abuse their power and influence until mandatory union membership is either restrained by the courts or by the enactment of a right to work law in Oregon.

It remains to be seen whether the state’s courts will continue to be receptive to these mandatory union enrollment practices. It is my hope that the courts will give public workers the opportunity to refuse to participate in union fund political activities they do not support.

In my opinion, no American should ever be coerced to participate in paying for political activities they oppose or even abhor. Too often, the automatic deduction of dues from public employees’ paychecks results in just such coercion. Worse, the unions are enhancing their political power by claiming to represent the interest of the same people they are forcing to pay dues against their will.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Public Employee Unions, Right-to-Work | 21 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • MrBill

    “SEIU and other public employee unions continue to take advantage of the fact that Oregon is not a right to work state.”

    Oregon needs to become a right to work state.

    • Outlaw All PERSnatching ASAP

      Right and write on.

  • Jack Lord God

    Why the hell am I paying the state to collect union dues?

    • Eric Blair

      Because it is part of the contracts.

      • MrBill

        whatever contract that mandates that should be amended.

        • Eric Blair

          Well, push for that at the next round of negotiations. You do realize that the cost is minimal, yes?

          I figure it is just part of the political compact that we live by. You’re annoyed by dues being deducted from payroll checks of union represented employees (along with other deductions), and I have to accept that my tax money goes to help pay for public services that benefit churches, and religion, that are paid for by my property taxes.

          • Jack Lord God

            “Part of the political compact” or “part of the social compact” usually means there is no logical basis for it, it is against the interest of the taxpayer, but dammit we want it and we are going to force you to do it! Look folks, whenever anyone pulls this compact crap on you ask to see a copy of it. Personally I never have had one of these yahoos ever produce one. I have to pay for dues collection for an organization whose very existence is to be diametrically opposed to the taxpayers interest? That’s not social compact, that’s straight up bullshit right there.

          • Eric Blair

            Speaking of crap, let’s try “taxpayer’s interest”. There is no single taxpayers interest. What you mean is, it is diametrically opposed to your interests. Unless you feel you speak for everyone? Wouldn’t surprise me if you felt that way.

          • .

            Bowl of pukey, too!

          • Eric Blair

            So, you don’t believe in natural rights? Do you believe that all rights have simply been established, or granted, by the state and given to everyone who lives with the borders of this country?

          • The Devil You Sway

            D’oh thou atheist in crISIS beheading in an Antichrist sway.

          • MrBill

            If the cost is minimal then it should be easy to negotiate.

          • Eric Blair

            The cost to the State is minimal… that actually makes it more difficult for the State to negotiate since it doesn’t cost them much. What should the State give up to get language on automatic withdrawal and deposit of union dues?

            Your comment is not making sense to me.

            Perhaps you should start an initiative to amend the Oregon constitution.

          • D’Appell Tree Beacons

            No, just ewe settle your morass out in sum Tarry Beanary.

          • .

            Bowl of pukey!

  • Nice00

    SEIU stopped collecting “fair share” dues a few weeks after the Harris decision. I called them immediately after the decision asking them to stop taking these dues out of my paycheck. It never made sense that Medicaid dollars used by a person (employer) for home care had deductions from the homecare worker’s (employee’s) paycheck for union dues. As a homecare worker I do not benefit from union hourly wage negotiations because the person requiring home care has limited dollars and those dollars are then backed into hours of care needed not the other way around.

    • thevillageidiot

      at least you understand the employer/employee relationship. something the Union has gotten around through the coercion of government.

  • oregongrown

    Another informative article by Sen Whitsett. This man speaks the truth over and over. And I can’t wait for the CA lawsuits against the teachers union there to get heard because I think that will make a huge difference in Oregon. The Oregon government unions have morphed into a sleazy, greedy, corrupt mess of gangsters here in Oregon.

    Anyone who has taken the time to go through the data in the PERS database and looking at the PERS Tier 1 pension amounts knows what an abomination that whole swindle is. The fact that thousands of PERS Tier 1 retirees get 100%, 140%, 200% more than their final salary, plus a 2% COLA never did pencil. And they knew it. And didn’t care one bit about the people of Oregon. Their greed in handing out the gains of a couple of good years in the stock market and leaving all the losses to taxpayers, shows the caliber of government we have in Oregon.

    The government payrolls in Oregon have way too many people feeding at the trough for the population in Oregon. We are forced to pay for way too many retirees, and way too many current workers at salaries and pensions that are much higher than other states like Washington, Idaho, Colorado and Rhode Island. And Oregon is still one of the poorest states in the union yet we have the biggest and most expensive government.

  • NAFTA Refugee

    2003 I sustained an injury while working for the county. I kept getting written up for work not done while on light duty. SEIU 503 took money out of my paycheck so I thought I’d pay them a visit. I was told I wasn’t In the computer therefore they couldn’t help me. I had a paystub. Didn’t matter. Tried again a month later. Still not in the computer, still couldn’t help me. Workman’s comp doc said pre-existing condition but refused to tell me what it was. The end. Several doctors later an MRI revealed a disc pressing against my spine. Lamenectomy. Talked to local lawyers who were all very interested until I said Kaiser Permanente at which point they all declined. A decade later I’m still taking pills for pain and blood pressure from pain. Can’t hold a job. Complicated migraine events.
    I could have used the help of the SEIU. They were there for the money every payday but pulled a Judas when I needed them. And what’s the deal with no lawyers taking a case with Kaiser Perm involved?

  • Joe

    Without fare share nobody would send their dues in to the union. This has been proven time and time again in every state that has right to work. So, we must not become that or our unions will wilt away to nothing.

    • Coltrane Nostradamus

      ‘FARE’ share avoidance by coincidence, MAXimized scofflaws.
      FAIR share udder wise, an anomaly provided at taxpayer expense to dose already sitting on their masses, expecting more freebees to fall into their lapse of responsibility.

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