In RCW 41.80, the state legislature granted private organizations the ability to secure a monopoly franchise over workplace representation services for state-funded employees. The Washington Federation of State Employees, council 28 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (WFSE-AFSCME) has secured the privilege of providing workplace services to tens of thousands of various public employees.
Many believe the union arrangement is not a good fit.
They may be professionals or technicians who have the sophistication to manage their own affairs. Others find themselves lumped in with other employees whose interests cannot possibly be uniformly represented by one monolithic organization like WFSE.
Others find the aggressive politicking and use of dues to advance partisan causes, candidates and ideology distasteful. Still others believe that union officials take advantage of the 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 court recognized that unions have 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 the unions' abuse of power, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that employees have certain rights. Specifically:
You can keep the hundreds of dollars in overcharges and make your own decisions about politics and causes.
If you object to WFSE overcharging you for workplace representation, you may choose to opt out of those charges.
U.S. Supreme Court decisions have long recognized that unions are not allowed to charge public employees for political, ideological or other nonessential union expenses as a condition of employment (Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, 500 U.S. 507 (1991)).
To accommodate this right, any public employee may become an "agency fee payer" and remain a nonunion member of the bargaining unit paying only the workplace representation fee, which is less than full union membership dues.
The Supreme Court has also required unions to explain to fee payers the purposes for any portion of fees it collects from them (Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986)).
The Federation of State Employees addresses this obligation by reducing the payroll deduction by approximately 25% according to the union contract:
"any employee who makes a request may pay a representation fee equal to a pro rata share of the full membership fee that is related to [workplace representation] . . . rather than the full membership fee." (WA/WFSE Collective Bargaining Agreement, Pg. 110)
The most recent calculation of how much of the unions' dues the union claims is used for legitimate workplace representation and how much it admits is used for extraneous purposes is reported to all fee payers each year in the "Representation Fee Notice."
On page two, the union calculates that seventy percent of the portion of union dues sent to AFSCME International is extraneous ("nonchargeable") and thus will be returned. On page three, the WFSE state council 28 reports that ten percent of its $18 million budget is extraneous.
The union acknowledges that for WFSE general government employees, the reduced fee is reflected by collecting a payroll deduction of 1.17% of wages rather than the 1.5% collected from members paying for everything the union officials choose to spend money on. This represents a 25 percent reduction in dues. "Nonmember Options" WFSE.ORG
Total overcharges from all levels of the union can range from $250 to $350.
If you object to WFSE overcharging you for workplace representation, and you would rather reclaim these funds, then you may request to pay the reduced representation fee.
DOWNLOAD, FILL OUT AND MAIL THIS FORM TO SELECT THIS OPTION
The union will still represent you in collective bargaining, contract management and grievance processing, but you will no longer have to contribute to causes unrelated to workplace representation like politics, marketing, litigation, ideological causes or other extraneous activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I keep my money from going to WFSE’s extraneous activities like politics and ideological causes?
Inform the AFSCME Council 28 Executive Director in writing that you wish to resign from all levels of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Washington Federation of State Employees Council 28 and your local AFSCME affiliate.
State you object to your fees being used for nonchargeable activities, and that you wish to pay the reduced representation fee.
Send a copy of your letter to AFSCME Council 28 and your local AFSCME affiliate.
A “fill in the blanks” version of the letter is available here.
If I stop paying the full amount of dues to the union, will I still receive the same wages and benefits specified in WFSE's contract with the state?
WFSE has arranged to be the "exclusive representative" of its bargaining units, meaning that it is impossible for workers to get out of the terms of the contract, even if they cease paying the full amount of dues.
Does it affect my pension?
Under state law, a union contract is binding on all employees in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are technically union “members.” Your compensation, benefits and conditions of employment are all set by the contract and the state legislature and will remain unchanged whether you pay full union dues or only the representation fee.
Will the union stop helping me with workplace issues if I pay only the workplace representation fee?
The union has a franchise to be the exclusive representative of the members of the bargaining unit. It can and will prevent members of the bargaining unit from securing their own assistance with workplace issues. In return for the monopoly on this particular service, unions have a corresponding legal duty to provide fair representation.
How will my relationship with the union change if I resign my membership in WFSE and stop paying the full amount of dues?
While the terms of WFSE's contract will still apply and your employment with the state will remain unchanged as a nonmember of WFSE, you will likely no longer be able to participate in internal union affairs, such as attending union meetings or voting for union officers. You will also be ineligible for any special “members only” deals or discounts the union has arranged with businesses. You may no longer receive the union newsletter or similar publications. Some unions also have policies preventing those paying for workplace representation from participating in contract ratification votes. While this is wrong, it is their prerogative since they have no obligation under law to have votes in the first place, and no legal obligation to act on the results of those votes. As a result, the ability to discriminate in voting is allowed.
How does WFSE spend my dues money?
According to reports the union must file with the U.S. Department of Labor, the state council of the union, WFSE, collected nearly $25 million in dues and fees from its members in fiscal year 2016.
- $6.7 million (about 27 percent) went to AFSCME's national headquarters in Washington, D.C., to support its massive political, economic and social agenda. The national AFSCME regularly supports a host of controversial organizations like Planned Parenthood — the nation's largest abortion provider — which received $405,000 from AFSCME last year alone.
- $1.3 million 800,000 was spent locally on divisive political candidates, causes and lobbying. Another $400,000 was spent on contributions, gifts and grants.
- WFSE Executive Director Greg Devereux received total compensation of $186,933 in 2016, up fifteen percent from $162,674 in 2015.
- Thirty-three employees are paid more than $80,000; Eleven of these are paid more than $100,000; Four are paid more than $150,000 and the highest paid receives $205,168.
The international union, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) collected $182 million in dues
- AFSCME’s president, Lee Saunders, was paid $356,224 in 2016, but the highest paid employee received $479,977.
- Roughly a million was spent on hotels, travel and food and catering.
- Nearly $80,000 was spent on giveaway bags and another $60,000 on t-shirts.
AFSCME's National 2012 LM-2 report is available here.
AFSCME's National 2013 LM-2 report is available here.
AFSCME's National 2014 LM-2 report is available here.
AFSCME's National 2015 LM-2 report is available here.
AFSCME's National 2016 LM-2 report is available here.
AFSCME’s 2012 IRS 990 tax return is available here.
AFSCME’s 2013 IRS 990 tax return is available here.
AFSCME’s 2014 IRS 990 tax return is available here.
AFSCME’s 2015 IRS 990 tax return is available here.