Washington union reports declining funds as anti-union effort continues

Oct 21, 2019, 5:12 AM | Updated: 5:48 am

A sizeable Washington state employee union may be losing a significant number of members, and revenue, as employees choose to stop paying dues.

Are Seattle’s labor unions are ditching Kshama Sawant?

One activist organization is touting that it is responsible.

“The Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE) was forced to disclose a 27.4 percent decline in financial supporters in its 2019 LM-2 report to the U.S. Department of Labor,” the Freedom Foundation said in a statement. “This drop means that WFSE’s dues collection declined 11.9 percent, from $27.2 million in 2018 to $24 million in 2019, although state employment remained stable during this same period.”

“As a result, WFSE has been forced to pare back its payroll costs, reducing the number of paid officers and staff from 229 to 200, and take other cost-cutting measures,” the statement continued.

The Freedom Foundation points to a financial report submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor as evidence. A foundation spokesperson said that “there has been a significant change in the number of financial supporters once people learn they do not have to pay the union as a requirement for keeping their job.”

The WFSE is Washington’s largest state employee union. The news is the latest in in a battle being waged over Washington state’s unions.

The Washington Federation of State Employees did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Fighting over the state union

The Freedom Foundation is a right-wing non-profit organization primarily dedicated to free enterprise and limited government. It also cites that reversing the “stranglehold government unions have on our state and local policy making” as one of its driving motivations.

In that spirit, it has been waging a campaign in Washington, targeting state employees, urging them to ditch their union. The campaign was spurred by the 2017 Janus Decision from the United States Supreme Court. In short, the ruling stated that unions cannot collect dues from non-union state employees.

Since then, the Freedom Foundation has been canvassing, going door-to-door, and even emailing state employees through their work emails encouraging them to opt out. By October 2018, the foundation reported that it convinced 11,250 state employees to opt out of their unions across Washington, Oregon, and California. It is currently reporting that it has helped more than 20,000 Washington employees cease paying union dues.

Washington group pushes back against Freedom Foundation

While the Freedom Foundation is boasting its anti-union success, it is also facing a challenge from Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Ferguson filed a lawsuit in early October, alleging campaign finance violations. The lawsuit is based on a referral from the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. The lawsuit claims that the foundation paid staff for opposition work on a ballot proposition in Olympia. It is required by law to report such expenditures to the PDC, but reportedly did not.

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Washington union reports declining funds as anti-union effort continues