There is a place for labor unions in our state, including state government. One can find an easy correlation between falling wages for U.S. workers over the past 35 years and the concomitant shrinkage of unionized labor.
But Initiative 1501 — which claims to protect the identities of the elderly and vulnerable — walks and talks like a special-protection measure for the Service Employees International Union Local 775 Northwest. Voters should reject it and leave the state’s public records laws intact.
What I-1501 does is shield the identity of union members who receive taxpayer funds for services rendered.
We understand SEIU’s defensiveness — it is under attack by the Freedom Foundation, the National Right to Work Foundation and others who would like to curb union representation wherever and whenever they can.
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SEIU 775 NW is the union that formed after passage of Initiative 775 in 2001 to represent home care workers, whose wages were at the bottom rung and since have climbed the ladder to well above minimum wage. Good for SEIU 775, and also good for SEIU’s other locals that have helped nurses and child care providers who accept state subsidies.
But wrongs by the far right do not justify changing the presumption of open records that now governs vendors who provide services that are paid for with state funds. Such is the situation facing home care workers.
After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2014 in an Illinois case, the Freedom Foundation has waged a series of court battles with SEIU locals over the identity of members. The foundation wants to be able to tell workers they don’t have to belong to SEIU to receive benefits of bargaining.
These are simple facts that SEIU members should be told. We are not unsympathetic to workers who find their contact information might be shared with a third party.
But I-1501 is a cynical ploy. If disclosure poses a real threat to vulnerable adults, that is the piece to address. Vote against this special interest initiative.