Opinion: It’s election season, which means some public workers are feeling politicked against

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center shares why heavy union politicking in election season offers a reminder why being a member of a public union should be voluntary, not compulsory.

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center shares why heavy union politicking in election season offers a reminder why being a member of a public union should be voluntary, not compulsory

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

Not political? Not so much. Unions are very active in politics. Their members’ money and time go to candidates they want to win. 

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

While politicking for candidates you believe in makes sense, it doesn’t feel good for some public employees to watch their money being used to tell them or others that they should vote for someone whose politics don’t line up with their own. OpenSecrets says that total labor-sector campaign contributions peaked in 2016 and almost 90 percent of contributions went to Democrats, which is consistent with at least two decades of labor contribution trends. 

The Washington State Labor Council has been recruiting volunteers for a full calendar of events all fall to support labor-endorsed candidates. (See the list of the WSLC’s 2022 election endorsements here.) There are “labor neighbor” walks in several communities again this weekend.

Heavy union politicking in election season offers an excellent reminder why being a member of a public union should be voluntary, not compulsory. And it is. But many public workers still don’t know that they have this ideological freedom.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public employees are no longer required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The Supreme Court staff summarized the decision this way: “The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

If you’re a public employee who tires of seeing your union dues going to politicking with which you disagree, or if you feel unrepresented by your union, learn more about how to exercise your constitutional rights at optouttoday.com

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.


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