NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 6, 2006

Recent developments in Washington and Maine demonstrate why state government is the silver lining to the cloud that hangs over organized labor, says Michael Reitz, director of Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Labor Policy Center.

Thanks to the Personal System Reform Act of 2002 -- which allows public-sector unions to negotiate salary, benefits and other economic conditions for state agency employees -- one in three public-sector workers is unionized and beleaguered state governments are agreeing to union contracts that coerce non-members to pay union dues, says Reitz.

In Washington:

  • The state allowed unions to insert a "union security" clause that required all covered employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, regardless of whether the individual employees are union members; in exchange, the union agreed to allow all affected employees to ratify the contract.
  • However, unions failed to notify affected workers; only 6,133 of 30,000 employees covered by the largest state worker union -- the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) -- voted and the legislation passed with little resistance.
  • WFSE dues are now set at 1.37 percent of an employee's salary, up to a maximum of $660 a year.

In Maine:

  • Legislators and the Maine State Employee Association (MSEA) also agreed to a "union security" clause that forced non-union state employees to either join MSEA or pay a "service fee" for the union's collective bargaining agreement.
  • Dues were set at $9.10 a week for members and $6.71 for nonmember fee payers, and the contracts created an estimated $700,000 in new revenue for MSEA.
  • In response, a Maine Right to Work coalition has formed in order to pass legislation banning the union's so-called "fair share" fees.

Source: Michael Reitz, "Pay or Be Fired," Labor Watch (Capital Research Center), June 2006.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues