Union dues not paid; state worker is fired"Protection against unfair actions by employers?" That's rich. What would you call this then? Protection is right. As in "protection racket", in the best traditions of Jimmy Hoffa and the Five Families. I can't believe we still allow this in the 21st Century.
GRANDVIEW, Yakima County — After 18 years with the state Department of Agriculture, Cathy Munson will work her last day today.
Munson, 56, isn't retiring. She's been fired for refusing to pay union dues or alternative fees as required under a labor agreement between the state and the 40,000-member Washington Federation of State Employees.
Effective July 1, the contract contains a "union-security clause" that allows the union to collect dues or fees from employees who become members — and from those who do not.
Munson objects to the clause, which she says was ratified by a minority of die-hard union members, leaving large numbers of the rank-and-file in the dark.
"At some point I just decided I had to say, 'That's enough.' Otherwise, I'm worthless," Munson said.
The mandatory fee payments are rooted in a law passed by the Legislature in 2002 that allows state workers to negotiate with the Governor's Office or university officials for pay raises and health benefits. Those contracts cover about 65,000 of the nearly 140,000 full- and part-time workers in state agencies or at the state's two- and four-year colleges.
The effort to enforce the union-security clause began in November, when the WFSE sent the names of 799 noncompliant employees to the state Labor Relations Office. The office advised the agencies employing those workers to tell them they would be fired after Christmas if they didn't pay their dues or fees.
Since then, many employees have decided to pay up and seek recourse through the grievance procedure or litigation. But 219 have continued to hold out, according to the union.
Munson, a senior horticultural inspector, is one of fewer than 20 state employees who have been terminated since the contract took effect.
To union members, she is the kind of employee who wants to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining — such as higher pay and protection against unfair actions by employers — without paying the freight.
To some, she is a hero who refuses to compromise her personal beliefs.
No state agency wants to lose good employees, but a deal is a deal, said Steve McLain, director of the Labor Relations Office.
Monthly union dues are capped at $55. Employees can choose not to join but they must pay under one of three options: an agency fee, representation fee or nonassociation fee.
Agency and representation fees offer limited or no rights to a say in union activities, such as voting for officers.
Those choosing the nonassociation fee must explain what religious beliefs prohibit them from union membership. If the employee qualifies for nonassociation status, the fees can go to the union education and training fund or to one of five charities.
"A deal is a deal?" Can you imagine the uproar if this woman had been fired for say trying to START a union or for whistleblowing on some fat cat executive? There would be a huge outcry.
Luckily, Initiative 926 has been field to get rid of this practice of extortion.