State Worker Ousted for Not Joining Union

Published April 1, 2006

Pat Woodward, 64, of Olympia, Washington, was recently fired from her job as a financial analyst for the Washington state Department of Licensing.

The reason? She refused to give a percentage of her paycheck to a union.

“I decided not to join the union because it would violate my religious and ethical beliefs,” Woodward said.

Thousands Threatened

Woodward is one of thousands of Washington state workers covered by new collective bargaining agreements that require payment of union dues as a condition of employment. Once the contracts went into effect, the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) began warning workers they would be fired for nonpayment. (See “Union Demands Wash. Workers Be Fired,” Budget & Tax News, February 2006.)

“I was unable to believe the threat of termination,” said Woodward. “I knew I was a good employee, respectful and polite to my coworkers. All my evaluations were good. I have received many awards and recognitions over the 22 years I worked in state government.”

When the union first negotiated the dues requirement, hundreds of state employees voiced their opposition. Many felt they had been misled by the union. Others objected to the collective bargaining agreements because they were never informed of the details of the contract or of their right to vote on contract ratification.

Of 30,000 employees represented by WFSE at the time, only 6,133 voted.

Bill Would Aid Unions

The questionable election tactics and firing of excellent employees has caused a public relations nightmare for the unions, but a cadre of union allies in the state legislature is riding to the rescue. Two bills, one in the House (HB 2807) and one in the Senate (SB 6644), have been proposed to give unions direct access to employee paychecks. Unions would no longer be required to ask permission from state employees to deduct union dues from their paychecks, thus ending the government’s need to fire unrelenting employees.

“It is disappointing that the legislature is not more motivated to retain capable employees like Pat Woodward,” said Michael Reitz, director of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Labor Policy Center. “Unfortunately, they appear to be more concerned with making it easier for unions to pick workers’ pockets.”

Kristen Mercier ([email protected]) is a policy analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a public policy research organization in Olympia, Washington.