First SEIU, Now OSEA Bleeding Members Since Janus

By Jason Dudash —

Early last June, with the U.S Supreme Court poised to issue a landmark ruling in Janus v. AFSCME that ultimately freed public-sector employees from mandatory union dues or fees. Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) President Tim Stoelb recognized the devastating potential the decision held, but remained optimistic for OSEA’s future.

Addressing Janus during his 2017 state of our union speech, Stoelb asked, “What does that mean for us? I don’t think I have to go into too many details to convey my fears. It will be devastating.”

He ended his remarks, however, with a glimmer of hope, citing a Malay proverb that observes: “A tree with strong roots laughs at storms.”

“With each and every one of us working together,” Stoelb vowed, “strengthening our roots and fortifying our trunk and branches, we will weather the storm ahead and indeed have a strong future.”

It turns out his first prediction was much more accurate.

According to numbers posted to OSEA’s website this month, chapters within the union have experienced an average of 30 percent membership losses since Janus.

Of the 22,415 employees represented by OSEA, only 15,535 were dues-paying members as of February — a 31 percent drop in the eight short months since the decision was handed down.

Of the union’s 139 chapters, 19 are currently below 50 percent membership, including:

  • Morrow Co. Ch. 59: 7 percent membership;
  • Powers Ch. 125: 13 percent membership;
  • Paul Ch. 121: 17 percent membership;
  • Roseburg Ch. 21: 19 percent membership;
  • Yamhill-Carlton Ch. 171: 20 percent membership; and,
  • David Douglas Ch. 40: 21 percent membership.

In light of these dramatic losses, one would hope that the union would attempt to focus on how to improve its services and make membership more appealing and worthwhile to workers. Instead, its leaders, have shifted their focus completely in an attempt to find a new way to make up for millions of dollars in lost revenue.

In January, House Bill 2643 was introduced by Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) at the request of OSEA. The bill is designed to undercut the worker freedoms highlighted by Janus by taking away their ability to opt out of union dues.

Instead, their salaries would simply be slashed by the amount of their union dues with the state handing the difference directly to the union. This means not only will workers see a deduction in their pay, but it will put taxpayers on the hook to fund unions directly.

You can learn more about the nefarious scheme of House Bill 2643 here.

This eye-opening discovery comes hot on the heels of the announcement that SEIU 503, Oregon’s single largest labor union, has experienced a 26 percent membership drop since the Janus ruling was announced last June.

Even Freedom Foundation Oregon Director Aaron Withe was surprised at these defection rates. Withe noted during an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting that he had expected membership losses of this magnitude to take at least a year. Instead, we’ve seen over a quarter of members flee from their unions in just over 6 months.

These losses are due in no small part to efforts of the Freedom Foundation. Following the Janus decision, the West Coast-based policy organization launched a full-scale statewide campaign to inform government workers of their newly affirmed workplace rights, and now the results are speaking for themselves.

Despite recent claims made in a Wall Street Journal guest opinion article that union membership nationally is down less than 1 percent, the article failed to take into account the steep decline in membership rates in states where the Freedom Foundation operates.

In Oregon, with SEIU 503 down 26 percent and now OSEA down 30 percent, these trends are making one thing very clear: When government workers are informed of their rights — and given a hand exercising them — they find freedom of choice and individual liberty inexpressibly more valuable than anything their union claims to offer.

Jason Dudash is the Oregon Outreach Coordinator and oversees all the outreach efforts throughout the state. Jason recently graduated from Corban University with a bachelor’s of science in Criminal Justice and a minor in Forensic Psychology.