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Merry Christmas: The Union Got You Fired By: Michael Reitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), the state’s largest state employee union, is asking agencies to terminate dozens of workers, some just in time for Christmas. Why is a union, charged with representing the interests of employees, demanding that they be fired?

Simple: They haven’t paid their union dues.

The state’s new collective bargaining agreements, negotiated in 2004, require all covered employees—some 53,000 general government workers—to join the union or pay nonmember “representation fees.”

Hundreds of state workers objected to the mandatory dues, as they were not informed of this change before ratifying the collective bargaining agreements in September 2004. Additionally, they protested the coercive nature of the change—they must pay for union representation whether they want it or not.

Despite the outcry, the new contract went into effect July 1, 2005. When the deadline for paying union fees arrived, some 3,000 had still not signed their authorization cards. The union began notifying employees they were in non-compliance and would be terminated, as required by the contract. In November, the WFSE gave the state Labor Relations Office a list of 800 workers who had not yet paid. Pressure from both union representatives and management whittled the list down to about 300 hold-outs by December 10.

Now workers are getting “final warning” phone calls and letters from their agencies. Those who resist will be handed their pink slip in the next few weeks.

For those who have decided to keep their jobs, there is little tangible benefit to having union representation. Although unionized employees received a 3.2 percent salary increase, the raise was eaten up by union dues and increased health and pension contributions.

So who really benefits from this mandatory union representation?

Washington public-sector unions are clearly the immediate beneficiary. According to the Office of Financial Management, the average union employee will earn $41,236 in fiscal year 2006. With WFSE dues set at 1.37 percent of salary, the average employee will pay $564 annually in dues.

The union, therefore, will collect over $20 million from its members. This windfall is only possible because employees are forced to pay if they want to keep their jobs. The Evergreen Freedom Foundation recently conducted an informal survey of 1,700 state workers. Sixty-nine percent said they joined their union only to avoid termination.

Pro-labor politicians also stand to benefit from the unionization of state employees. In 2004, organized labor underwrote Governor Gregoire’s recount effort with $620,000 in contributions. Washington unions can also be credited with the Democrat majorities in both houses of the state legislature, after giving over $882,000 to Democrat legislative candidates in 2004.

Washington has effectively handed control of state employment over to union officials. Sadly, public service is no longer based on qualification or experience, but on membership in a private organization driven by political self-interest.

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