In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, unions and their supporters in the legislature have sought a way around the decision. Rep. Paul Holvey of Oregon has introduced House Bill 2643,[1] which aims to avoid the free speech issue raised in Janus by allowing the state to assess fees from public employers. In Janus, the issue was that the non-members were compelled to pay. Under this bill, employees would no longer be compelled to pay but the unions would still get funds from public employers in order to comply with their duty to provide fair representation to all members of represented bargaining units.

The bill acknowledges the Supreme Court decision in Janus. It “Provides that membership in public sector labor organization is voluntary. Prohibits public employer from requiring public employee to pay dues to labor organization if employee chooses not to join labor organization.” Instead, the bill imposes an “assessment, administered by Employment Relations Board, on public employers in amount that equals established percentage of employer’s payroll for public employees who are members of labor organization. Directs board to deposit assessments in Employment Relations Protection Account. Directs board to distribute moneys in account, minus amount retained by board for administrative costs, to exclusive representative of employer’s employees who are members of labor organization.”

According to the Freedom Foundation, the bill is “an attempt to re-funnel taxpayer dollars meant to be designated to our teachers and other public employees that will inevitably be used to keep government unions in power at the capitol.” The Freedom Foundation promises to sue if the bill becomes law.[2]

In response to the Freedom Foundation, Professor Michael Tedesco, University of Oregon School of Law, and Chief Counsel for the AFT Local 6732, argues that “employers benefit from the duty of fair representation, and therefore they should pay the costs now that non-members are not.” He maintains that there are no grounds for a lawsuit. However, he cautions that this version of the bill is unlikely to become law.[3]

Oregon’s state legislature is under unified Democratic control,[4] so some version of this bill is may pass. What happens in court is unpredictable. If this bill becomes law, states like New York and California which are under total Democratic control and heavily unionized can adopt similar legislation.[5]


[2] The Freedom Foundation has not made clear what the grounds for a suit would be.

[3] In a phone conversation with the author of this article.


[5] Aaron Withe, Director of the Oregon Freedom Foundation, Representative Holvey of Oregon, and Professor Michael Tedesco contributed to this article.