If you were to ask the average American what a union represents, most would say it stands for better working conditions, higher pay and, most importantly, its members.
Up until a few years ago, I would have probably agreed. That was before I became a dues-paying member myself. Since then, I've been able to see firsthand exactly what the union's role is in the modern workplace.
Vast bureaucracies stifled by groaning inefficiencies, slow response times and disinterested stewards are the hallmark of today's unions.
My current employer is one of Oregon's largest (and most progressive) hospitals, a place where breaking from popular opinion will get you shunned by your peers and targeted by management.
I have seen how deep union sentiment runs at my workplace since whenever I voice any frustration or disagreement with the union, I am met with being called a fascist or words to that effect.
Unfortunately, I have had to live with my discontent thanks to a federal law that required public employees to pay union dues regardless of membership.
Enter Janus v. AFSCME, the ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court last June that upended the stranglehold unions had on public-sector employee's paychecks.
The court's decision said that forcing a public employee to pay dues even when he or she chooses not to be a union member is a form of compelled speech, and therefore unconstitutional.
Upon learning of this landmark decision and with the help of the Freedom Foundation, I promptly sent AFSCME my opt-out form.
Two weeks later, I received a reply from AFSCME informing me that my membership was canceled but dues deductions would continue.
Again, I contacted the Freedom Foundation for help. This time I was advised to contact the payroll and human-resources departments directly to tell them I no longer approved of any unions dues or fees being taken from my checks.
Surprisingly, payroll responded immediately by honoring the request.
That was weeks ago. Then I received a new email last week, this time from the head of payroll, informing me that my request had been re-evaluated and denied.
What was the reasoning? The union dictates who does and does not pay dues.
According to the union, I really didn't have much of a say in a matter about my own money. Naturally, I asked a handful of my coworkers if they had received the same kind of treatment.
Short answer — yes.
Word around the hospital is that our union is doubling down because its leaders fear a potential mass exodus and are willing to do just about anything to keep the money flowing.
To date, I've seen mid-level bureaucrats attempting to confuse union members with never-ending email strings, misinformation campaigns and the ever-present threat of reprisal to anyone who dares step out of line.
If you were to ask me today what public-sector unions represent, my answer would be vastly different than earlier. It's clear to me now that, more than anything else, AFSCME only cares for itself.
Ethan Alt is a resident and registered voter in Oregon City.
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