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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Contract prompts tough choice: pay union dues or lose paycheck

Associated Press

OLYMPIA – About 3,000 state workers must start making union payments or they could stop getting paychecks when a crackdown on new labor contract rules gets under way later this month.

Labor contracts that took effect July 1 require some union-covered full- or part-time state workers to either join the union and pay dues or opt out and pay lesser fees. But some workers have yet to pay either fee – and that inaction could eventually cost them their jobs.

Tim Welch, spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said his union is still trying to get a response from several thousand of the 37,500 state workers his agency represents. Workers were supposed to notify the union by July 30, and the union has contacted some of them as many as six times.

“There are about 3,000 folks we haven’t heard from yet,” Welch told the News Tribune of Tacoma for Monday editions.

By mid-September, he said, the federation plans to start notifying state agencies which workers have not begun paying.

Eva Santos, director of the state Department of Personnel, said paying the union fees is a condition of employment and employees could lose their jobs for failure to do so.

The Washington Federation of State Employees is the largest state workers union. Monthly dues run to a maximum of $55 for a worker earning $68,000 or more per year.

Employees who opt not to join the union can instead pay an “agency fee,” which covers only the cost of representation but not other activities such as political campaign contributions. That fee runs to a maximum of $45.49 per month.

The mandatory payments are rooted in a law legislators passed in 2002 that let state workers negotiate with the governor’s office or university officials.

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