The Numbers Unions Give Don't Tell the Whole Story

Ask nearly anyone to uncritically evaluate their own job performance and you’ll likely wind up with the spin union bosses are throwing around to explain the discrepancy between the membership and dues revenue numbers cited by SEIU 503 — the state’s largest public employee union — and the Freedom Foundation, a Northwest-based, nationally respected labor watchdog organization that helps government workers opt out of their labor unions and stop paying dues.

Labor leaders are trying to discredit our organization’s success by pointing to an annual report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that says Oregon’s union membership is on the rise, increasing from 256,000 to 277,000 in 2019.

But the numbers are skewed, and union bosses know it. The BLS tabulates membership for all unions while the Freedom Foundation is focused solely on public-sector employees — specifically, those whose rights to opt out of union participation were affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

Oregon’s SEIU spokesman Ben Morris claims the union has grown to represent 72,000 workers. What he’s not telling you, however, is that he can only make that claim because government continues to grow and hire more public-sector workers his union will be designated to represent.

But that doesn’t mean the new hires are all signing up to become members of SEIU.

In fact, its own 2019 LM-2 report shows SEIU 503 has only 44,910 dues-paying members. That spells out a 62 percent membership rate.

Likewise, SEIU 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger baldly asserts the union’s “…decreased dues collection doesn’t signify a weakening of employee unions.”

Is she kidding? That’s exactly what it does signify.

The bottom line is that numbers don’t lie. In 2019, SEIU 503 collected more than $2 million less in membership dues (because members are leaving) than the previous year. It also spent $677,741 less on Oregon politics over the same span.

And in the nearly two years since the Janus ruling was issued, it has collected more than $4 million less in dues and spent $2.5 million less on politics.

If Ms. Unger and her fellow union spinmeisters consider that a record of success, I’d love to see what failure looks like.

 Jason Dudash is the Oregon state director for the Freedom Foundation, a free-market organization committed to helping free public sector employees from union tyranny.