April 14, 2007
What's happening in the Senate today?

Senate Republican leader Mike Hewitt has an update.

Among other things:

The unions are getting some big wins, including:

* HB 2074 (using nonmembers' union fees for political campaigns without their permission) passed yesterday
* Empty promise paid family leave program
* Wal-Mart retribution bill (dead or alive?)
* The budget will include a $753 check for every union member for overpayment into their health care premiums. Nonunion members, who also overpaid, get this much back: $0.

Big wins for the unions? Go figure.

More on the health care premium overpayment rebate that is restricted to union members (strictly speaking, "bargaining unit employees" who pay dues to the union even if they opt out of "membership") is here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at April 14, 2007 02:33 PM | Email This
1. Not even an attempt at the APPEARANCE of propriety anymore by these people~!

Posted by: Michele on April 14, 2007 02:28 PM
2. I smell a lawsuit coming on over this one.

Posted by: TrueSoldier on April 14, 2007 02:31 PM
3. The FAQ section indicates that employees need only be members of a "bargaining unit," not members of a union, to receive the lump sum settlement payments for overpayment of medical insurance premiums:

"Do you have to be a union member to get the lump sum?"

"No. You must simply be covered by one of the 2007-2009 contracts, which means you must be in a bargaining unit. All bargaining unit employees, regardless of their union membership status, are eligible for the lump sum as long as they are also insurance eligible for June 2007."

"Why don't unrepresented employees get the lump sum?"

"The union negotiated in the 2005-2007 contracts that each employer would contribute a specific dollar amount for each represented employee's health care premium. This specific guarantee was at the heart of the coalition's grievance. The Legislature was not required to fund unrepresented employees at the same level and did not.

"Contact us if you are interested in forming a bargaining unit at WSU."

I believe that if a person's place of employment has a union that represents employees in the person's job classification, that person would be part of a bargaining unit whether or not he chooses to join the union. I don't think WA allows people to opt out entirely from being represented by the union -- otherwise, this would be a "right to work" state, and it's not.

It looks to me as though those who are not represented by a union, because they work where there is no union, wouldn't have a contract claim to any settlement payment -- so wouldn't get the lump sum. It wouldn't be because they opted out of union membership. It would be because they aren't working where there is a union representing them -- and thus no collective bargaining agreement to provide a basis for a claim against the state.

Posted by: Micajah on April 14, 2007 02:39 PM
4. Two objective comments to be fair and balanced:

1. HB 2074 will backfire. They should have simply repealed RCW 42.17.760 in its entirety, and that would have taken care of the "problem". Non-members would have to request a refund of the political expenditures in that event, instead of having to agree to political expenditures in the first place. As it is, HB 2074 still requires non-members to approve the political expenditures. The change made by HB 2074 is to pretend there really are no political expenditures. That will backfire if unions charge non-members the full union dues for representation. The U.S. Supreme Court has already said that non-members are constitutionally entitled to a refund equal to the pro-rata expenditures that the union as a whole makes for political causes. The accounting trick attempted by HB 2074 has been repeatedly rejected by the federal courts. Now that HB 2074 has passed both houses in identical format, it must be presented to Mrs. Gregoire to sign or veto.

2. The refund of $753 of health insurance premiums to bargaining unit employees, on the other hand, is entirely appropriate. The unions negotiated a contract for the state to contribute a specified amount to health insurance for represented employees. The state did not fund it fully. So this $753 is a settlement, and applies to all represented employees, including non-members. It is a compromise, as the state employee union was claiming that the state owed an even larger amount. By contrast, I don't think the state made any contractual promises to other employees (i.e. those not in the union bargaining units) to provide anything more in health insurance coverage, than what those employees actually received.

Posted by: Richard Pope on April 14, 2007 02:45 PM
5. Micajah -- excellent analysis and you beat me to it. Posted yours while I was writing mine. Any thoughts on HB 2074, especially as to why they amended RCW 42.17.760, instead of simply repealing it? I think this "accounting trick" will backfire in a major way on any union that tries to take advantage of it.

Is this really a matter of practical importance? What percentage of union dues do most unions actually spend on political causes? How many employees choose not to join the union? They still have to pay for representation costs. Aside from the constitutional right to opt out of political costs, does even the political budget of most unions get reduced by all that much?

Posted by: Richard Pope on April 14, 2007 02:51 PM
6. When I ask if it is so practical importance, I am of course talking about the unions, and what percentage of political budget they are losing from non-members.

Obviously, this is a matter of great practical importance and supreme constitutional importance to non-member who do not wish to be forced to pay for the union's politics.

Posted by: Richard Pope on April 14, 2007 02:53 PM
7. Good! It's about time the unions got something. Too bad your statement is a lie (nonunion members getting $0.) with the later attempt to explain, strictly speaking.

Yeah, I understand the empty promise paid family leave deal. Two cents per hour is a crushing financial blow.

But what do we expect from this site?

Posted by: Unions Forever! on April 14, 2007 03:20 PM
8. Looks like when the Unions coughed up HUGE $$ for Gregoire's 2nd recount, she knew what they would expect. The best representation money can buy, eh?

Posted by: Michele on April 14, 2007 04:40 PM
9. Public employee unions + the democratic party = the real culture of corruption.

Posted by: Tim on April 14, 2007 05:34 PM
10. Unions Forever. What do you mean by "about time the unions got something?" I am robbed by the unions each year to the tune of almost $800. Because I choose not to join the union I get about $200 of those dollars back. My local bargaining unit, which is a great bunch of people who do a wonderful job for me, get $112. For this $112 they negotiate a decent contract and work out issues. The other $488 goes to the WEA and the NEA, neither of which does anything that I am interested in paying then for. I think that the union gets plenty.

Posted by: Calvin A on April 14, 2007 07:26 PM
11. So much for equal treatment under the law in Washington State.

Other than that regarding this session, I've been in outhouses that smelled far better than what's coming out of Olympia.

Posted by: jcmount on April 14, 2007 08:17 PM
12. I also smell a lawsuit coming on over this one.

But what the heck, spend 64 Billion plus 9 billion plus 16 Billion, and each year come on back for more...Their piggy bank citizens got unlimited funds right?

Notice your $30 tabs lately, $60, $90, $120 $240, $480, where will they stop. They won't!

It's the new Gregoire Accounting 101 they are going to now teach your children as of this session

Gulp Gulp Gulp PACMAN never had it this good

Posted by: Gs on April 14, 2007 08:33 PM
13. Richard Pope, you wonder why the D's didn't just repeal the statute. I guess they don't want to risk having to pay a political price. With this modification to the statute (HB 2079), they can buy time for their current practices in case the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the WA Supreme Court and upholds the requirement to obtain consent before making political use of "agency shop fees" paid by employees who aren't union members.

The accounting change in the statute seems like a sham, unless the unions have independent sources of funds that can be used for their political activities. Is there any difference in the individual amounts of agency shop fees from people who aren't union members and union dues from union members? If the two groups of employees pay the same to the union, it doesn't make sense to me that a union could claim the agency shop fees pay only for representation in collective bargaining so long as union dues constitute enough to fund political activities. Wouldn't the same amount of union dues be needed to pay for representation in collective bargaining? What's left over from union dues to be spent on political activities after paying the costs of representation in collective bargaining? Nothing, so far as I know, unless the unions claim to spend less in representing union members than they spend representing non-members.

Unless I'm misunderstanding what the unions are doing with the money they get, this accounting "clarification" seems like nothing more than moving the shells around in the game -- waiting for the next lawsuit to come along and wind its way for years through the judicial system. In the meantime, the unions would keep doing as they desire despite the law enacted by the citizens through the initiative process years ago. Am I being too cynical as I fill in any gaps in my knowledge of how this works?

Posted by: Micajah on April 14, 2007 09:18 PM
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