In ORS 243.666, the state legislature granted private organizations the ability to secure a monopoly franchise over workplace representation services for public employees. Roughly 6,500 of these employees working for various state agencies fall under the exclusive representation of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Many believe the union arrangement is not a good fit.
Some may be professionals who feel they have the right to manage their own affairs. Others find themselves lumped in with other employees whose interests cannot possibly be uniformly represented by one massive organization like AFSCME.
Others object to the union’s aggressive politicking and use of dues to advance partisan causes, candidates and ideology. Still others believe that union officials take advantage of their power to force people to pay by overcharging and underperforming.
Unfortunately, unions are not governed by the usual consumer protection or anti-trust laws, so abuses of the privilege of collecting money are possible. For example:
They can charge whatever they wish. They can spend money on whatever they wish. They do not have to disclose how the money is spent to those who pay it. They can speak for employees without consulting or informing them. They can injure some members’ interests while advancing the interests of others. They can prevent employees from getting help in their workplace from other sources. They are not governed by any obligation to provide quality service, and they almost never have to seek reauthorization of their right to have this monopoly on workplace services.
The courts have acknowledged that these extraordinary powers can lead to abuses. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that unions have the power to wrongfully overcharge for services, and the power to compel people to fund a speech they don’t support in violation of the First Amendment.
Public employees have challenged some of these abuses, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that they have certain rights. Specifically:
You can keep the hundreds of dollars in overcharges and make your own decisions about politics and causes.
If financially supporting your union or its activities violates your sincerely held religious beliefs, you can donate all of your dues money to charity.