Oregon Unions Hoping Legislature Can Restore What Janus Took Away

By Aric Wood —

Public-sector unions like SEIU and many others have been boxed into a corner by the Freedom Foundation. But rather correcting the problems that put them in this fix, they’re doubling down on their doomed status quo.

With mandatory membership or dues no longer an option in the wake of last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, union leaders facing the prospect of mass defections need to start offering workers a service worth paying for. Instead, they flex their political power and use their surrogates in government to squeeze every penny they can out of the public workers of Oregon.

Predictably, this includes pushing a number of dubious, union-friendly bills during the current session of the Oregon State Legislature. These include:

HB 2643  

By far the most transparently money hungry of the bills voters should be watching, it exposes the hypocrisy of union leaders who insist their top priority is representing workers.

(Watch Freedom Foundation Oregon Director Aaron Withe explain more here.)

HB 2643 is an effort to strip the workers of their right under the Janusruling to opt out of union dues. Instead of paying government employees their full salary and asking them to voluntarily support the union and its ideals, the bill would empower the state to reduce their wages by the amount of their monthly dues and simply funnel the money directly into the union’s coffers.

Incredibly, the measure would create an arrangement under which the unions would obtain the resources to protect employees from the employer … from the employer.

Imagine for a second if the head of the United Auto Workers’ salary was paid by Ford Motor Co.? Now imagine the money paying for this is coming from a massive pay cut to the worker themselves.

If you can wrap your head around that insanity, you have a pretty good idea of what this bill is trying to do. And why it would be an unqualified disaster for this state.

HB 2726

One of the most common arguments used to shame and attack employees who try to opt out of union participation is that they are benefiting unfairly from the unions’ hard work by not helping pay for the cost of contract negotiations.  This is commonly referred to as the “free-rider” argument.  But these employees are actually “forced riders” because they’re deprived of the option to represent themselves.

Before the Janus ruling, public-sector employees who didn’t want to be a part of the union could leave, but they were still required to pay so-called “agency fees” to the union for representational activities. HB 2726 is an attempt to recover the loss of those fees.

This bill notes that these “fair-share payments” must be voluntary.  Still, it is just another attempt to increase union funding by any means possible.

HB 2409

The commissioner of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries has always been charged with calculating the “prevailing wage” — the average hourly pay for each worker in a given industry and locality.

This bill proposes to change this system by instead defining the prevailing wage as whatever the local union for that industry says the prevailing wage is. Only in cases where there is no collective bargaining agreement will the commissioner be permitted by law to conduct an independent wage survey.

This is a clear case of unions being allowed to usurp a government function for their own benefit.

The bill makes no provision for the possibility of the union lying. Under this new system, the will have no hard data to counter the union’s analysis. Only large and general numbers for each industry in each locality.

If the first glance proves correct, the measure will apply to both public and private unions and transition an important function from the representative government to unions and ask them to accurately self-report without oversight.

It is a fantasy to believe that this power, if granted, will not be abused.

Unions have been waiting years for an opportunity like the one that exists in Oregon right now. With large majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a union stooge in the governor’s mansion, there is no safeguard to prevent laws from being pushed through the process at breakneck speeds.

Laws that will circumvent the constitution and give the unions more power, more money, and more unfair influence over Oregonians.

But the democracy game still works. Call your legislators and ask them to support the rights of state employees to speak their own mind — and, if they so choose, go their own way.

Aric Wood is a Policy Intern at the Oregon branch of the Freedom Foundation. He is a political science student at Corban University with deep love of freedom, free association and the voice of Oregon’s workers.