Oregon’s Scheme to Save Union Slush Funds
It’s not often that another state can top California when it comes to protecting public employee unions. But Oregon’s House Bill 2643 takes the prize so far for the most audacious attempt to thwart the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
Janus v. AFCFME allowed government workers to opt-out of paying political dues to their union. As a result, thousands of Oregon workers have stopped paying those dues at a considerable loss to union coffers. The Freedom Foundation reports that more than 40,000 union members in the West Coast have already defected in the last six months.
The “Employment Relations Protection Account” which is expected to be introduced in the current legislative session, creates a fund from which state and local government would pay the equivalent of each employee’s monthly dues directly to the union. I could hardly believe the news reports, so I had to read the proposed bill myself:
“Establishes Employment Relations Protection Account. Imposes assessment, administered by Employment Relations Board, on public employers in amount that equals established percentage of employer’s payroll for public employees who are members of labor organization. Directs board to deposit assessments in Employment Relations Protection Account. Directs board to distribute moneys in account, minus amount retained by board for administrative costs, to exclusive representative of employer’s employees who are members of labor organization. Makes matters related to assessments subject to collective bargaining. Declares emergency, effective on passage.”
The Freedom Foundation explains it like this: If a state employee has a salary of $50,000, from which $1,000 would have been deducted to pay union dues, the bill proposes that the state divert the $1,000 to the union. “This underhanded scheme allows unions to keep lining their pockets and writing checks at liberal fundraisers,” writes Aaron Withe and Ashley Varner of the Freedom Foundation.
Withe and Varner point out that there are serious legal holes in the scheme, namely that government ends up representing both labor and management in collective bargaining negotiations.
Since the bill is still on the drawing board, there are a lot of unanswered questions: If the dues will be diverted from the union member’s paycheck to the union, does it mean that he or she loses out on the savings? Or will Oregon taxpayers ultimately fund the gap? Even more ominous, how much will the unions ultimately amass?
Oregon House bill 2643 is a desperate attempt to save the union’s slush fund at taxpayers’ expense. And if Oregon can make it work, it’s a safe bet that California won’t be far behind.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute