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EDITORIAL: Forgeries show why union elections need secret ballots

Sigifredo Araujo says he never signed a union card, but that didn’t stop SEIU 775 from taking dues out of his paycheck.

Mr. Araujo lives in Washington state and has provided in-home health care to his disabled mother for seven years. Medicaid pays for the care, but the SEIU wanted a cut. In 2018, he noticed that the union was withdrawing dues from his paycheck.

When he inquired about this, union officials told him that he had signed a membership card. He asked for a copy but never received it. The next year, he asked again. This time the union sent the card, but there was a problem. His signature wasn’t his. Someone had forged it.

Something similar happened to Sharrie Yates. She works for Washington state’s Healthcare Authority as a medical assistant. Washington isn’t a right-to-work state. Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus ruling, Yates had to pay dues to the Washington Federation of State Employees. That ruling gave government employees the First Amendment right not to pay union dues. But when she asked to leave the union, it refused. Union officials claimed she had electronically signed a renewal form just a few days before the Janus ruling.

It’s easy for a situation like this to end in a stalemate. Unions have a financial incentive not to investigate apparent fraud or to allow those victimized to opt out. Workers are usually stuck waiting for the next opt-out period. If they miss their window, which may only be a couple of weeks long, they have to wait another year.

Fortunately, these workers found the Freedom Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to worker freedom and opposing coerced unionism. It has sued on their behalf. The Freedom Foundation has filed similar lawsuits in Oregon and California, too. Last year, it settled another forgery case, this one in Washington state, for $28,000.

The authorities should investigate these unions to find out how widespread these incidents are. Those responsible for forgeries should face criminal charges. That’s what would happen if a bank or other private business tried a scam like this. But because unions and Democratic politicians are political allies, don’t expect that to happen.

There’s an important lesson to learn here. For years, unions have wanted Congress to allow them to unionize a workplace using card check instead of secret ballots. With card check, a union can claim to represent workers by producing cards “signed” by a majority of employees.

These cases are a reminder of what some unions will do to gain or retain power. It’s why workers must be able to express their true feelings about workplace representation using a secret ballot.

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