As WW reported in Murmurs this week, the Freedom Foundation, an anti-union group, released new numbers this week that show how many state workers are members of Service Employees International Union Local 503, how many of them pay dues, and how those numbers have changed since last year.
Here's the gist of the Murmur:
The figures indicate just 67 percent of the nearly 24,000 SEIU members who work for the state of Oregon now pay dues. That's down from 74 percent last December and nearly 100 percent prior to a June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed members to stop paying. Freedom Foundation spokesman Aaron Withe says that's proof his group's anti-union campaign is working. SEIU Local 503 executive director Melissa Unger says the union expected the increase in free riders, but overall membership is growing steadily. "Bottom line," Unger says, "we haven't lost any power."
To expand on that disagreement: Withe says the numbers show that his group is successful in dissuading new employees from paying dues and making the same argument to current members.
Here are the actual numbers the Freedom Foundation collected from the state of Oregon. (The numbers cover fewer than half of the Oregon workers SEIU represents. Many of its members work for non-state governments and as home health care aides.)
Unger says the more important measure is the number of SEIU-represented state employees paying dues. She notes that has barely changed since last December—falling from 16,064 to 16,027.
Meanwhile, the number of SEIU-represented employees has jumped dramatically over that same period, rising from 21,666 to 23,912, an increase of 2,246 new employees, or more than 10 percent.
In short: SEIU is representing quite a few more workers, but the number of workers paying dues has remained flat.
Unger says that following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2018 decision in Janus vs. AFSCME, SEIU and other labor organizations face a new challenge: They have to convince new members to pay dues, rather than just collecting those dues automatically. Unger says that task is complicated by the fact that SEIU represents workers at hundreds of different workplaces around the state.
"We are adapting to the new law," Unger says. "We have to figure out how to ask."