Following a landmark anti-union decision by the U.S. Supreme Court this week, a group backed by the Koch brothers and other wealthy conservative donors will move aggressively to reduce public employee union membership in the three West Coast states, according to Bloomberg News.
"The conservative nonprofit Freedom Foundation said that starting Wednesday, it will deploy 80 people to a trio of West Coast union bastions: California, Oregon and its home state of Washington," Bloomberg reports. "The canvassers were hired in March and trained this month, according to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. The goal of the multi-pronged campaign is to shrink union ranks in the three states by 127,000 members—and to offer an example for similar efforts targeting unions around the country."
For the past several months, the Freedom Foundation has made public records requests of state and local Oregon governments in an attempt to identify union members who may wish to stop paying union dues. The group has met with varying degrees of success.
The purpose of that endeavor became clear this week, when the court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that public employee union members could not be required to pay dues against their wishes.
Public employee unions in Oregon have long allowed members who don't want to support a union's political activities to pay only for the cost of collective bargaining and administration and not for political activity.
The court's ruling this in Janus vs. AFSCME, however strikes down the "no free-riders" principle: it will now allow members to benefit from the result of collective bargaining, i.e. higher wages and benefits, without paying any costs. Thus those employees will get "free ride."
It's unclear how the Freedom Foundation will fare in trying to peel off members of Oregon's public employee unions. Service Employees International Union (65,000 members in Oregon), the Oregon Education Association (45,000 Oregon members and AFSCME (27,000 Oregon) members have all been working hard ahead of the Janus decision—which they all expected—to firm up their memberships through one-on-one and group meetings and other communication.
After the Janus decision was announced, Stacy Chamberlain the executive director of AFSCME Oregon Council 75, pointed to recent union organizations at Oregon State University, Burgerville and Volunteers of America, a Portland non-profit.
"The Oregon labor movement is growing," Chamberlain said in a statement. "And we know that the working people of our state will continue to stay together to protect middle-class jobs with good benefits and wages."