Democrats in the Oregon Legislature paid their union dues on this session. Lawmakers approved, largely along party lines, House Bill 2016, which made it far easier for public employee unions to recruit new members and far more difficult for dissatisfied employees to drop their union membership. Many of those voting for the bill had received campaign donations from the unions the law will affect.
The unions apparently felt they needed the help in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling in June 2018. That 5-4 decision said it violates public employees’ free speech rights to require them to contribute so-called agency fees to unions they do not wish to join. An agency fee is the amount charged nonunion workers by unions for bargaining done on their behalf.
They got that help, in spades. Assuming Gov. Kate Brown signs the bill — and there’s no reason to think she won’t — several things will happen.
Public employers will be required to pay union representatives for at least some of the time the latter spend on union work. Too, employers will have to give unions contact information, including private telephone numbers and home addresses, for all employees.
In addition, a new hire can join the public employee union that represents workers in his office and agree to have fees and dues deducted from his paycheck with a phone call or email. Canceling the agreement is another matter, however. Under 2016, an employee wanting out must “deliver” an original, signed revocation of the agreement to the union’s headquarters. Thus, a person working for Wallowa County in Enterprise might have to drive 368 miles each way to drop out of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents Wallowa County workers.
While workers, be they public employees or not, should be able to join unions as they see fit; they should also be given the right to be left alone by union representatives if that’s what they want and to quit union membership as easily as they joined. This measure will make that impossible.