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Latest News - September 2012

September 16, 2012
For some, union fees continue to rise
By: Hannah Koffman

State employees started paying 5 percent of their health insurance premiums this year, but they already were paying monthly bills to their unions. In some cases, public employees will pay more per month in 2013 for dues than they will for health insurance, according to data from the Department of Administrative Services.

And these dues are not a fixed cost for all employees. In many cases they are going up.

Data show that the state’s largest union, SEIU Local 503, collected more than twice as much in dues from its members last year as it did a decade earlier — although membership did grow significantly during that time.

In 2001, SEIU charged 1.5 percent of monthly salary and collected $9,985,322 in dues, according to that year’s filing.

In 2011, SEIU charged 1.7 percent of monthly salary, collecting $21,372,369 in dues from its members.

During the same time, the union membership increased from 28,193 people in 2001 to 43,781 in 2011. Those numbers include all state, county and municipal members.

So, while SEIU 503 membership increased 53 percent over the decade, the amount of dues it collected increased 116 percent.

How do union dues compare with other employee costs, such as the new health insurance payments?

The average Providence plan will cost employees about $65 per month in 2013, but union dues can cost at least that much, reaching as high as $94.75 in the case of the Department of Health and Human Services mental health physicians’ bargaining unit.

Oregon’s state employees are represented by 10 units, which include 32 bargaining units. SEIU has only two units — one prohibited from striking and one that is allowed to strike.

The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, on the other hand, represents 23 bargaining units, which represent employees ranging from dentists with the Department of Corrections to the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s office.

Some employees belong to little-known unions. While AFSCME and SEIU dominate the public discussion and represent the vast majority of state workers — more than 20,000 between them — smaller unions flourish in Oregon as well.

The Association of Engineering Employees represents 1,129 people.

The State Teachers Education Association represents only 26, all of them teachers at the Oregon School for the Deaf. The Oregon Education Association does not represent any state employees; all of their members work for school districts.

All of the unions charge dues based on a percentage of an employee’s base monthly salary, and range from 1.27 percent to 1.7 percent.

A few unions charge flat fees, which range from $31 to $75.37.

Most unions set a floor and ceiling for dues. Corrections employees, for example, pay no less than $5 and no more than $25. Some unions, however, do not set a cap, which means dues will always go up as salaries rise.

The SEIU, for example, sets the floor at $5 and leaves the ceiling as high as salaries will take it.



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