OTHELLO Three of the five highest-spending lobbying groups in Olympia during the first quarter of 2014 were labor unions, including three that represent employees paid with tax dollars.
According to a study released Tuesday by Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based think tank, the Washington Education Association spent $160,201 on lobbying activities during the first three months of the year, trailing only the Washington Health Care Association, which spent $213,986 representing nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The Washington Federation of State Employees ranked third, with total lobbying expenditures of $151,457.
Service Employees International Union Local 775 finished in fifth place, spending $122,442.
“There’s nothing wrong with union lobbying per se, if lobbying funds come from voluntary member contributions,” noted Freedom Foundation Labor Policy Analyst Max Nelsen. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of union political funds come from fees forcibly collected from union workers as a condition of employment.
"Individual union workers deserve the ability to make their own decisions about union representation, and should not be forced to fund union lobbying against their interests.”
Other key findings in the study:
- If affiliate unions were counted together, SEIU would be the largest lobbying spender with lobbying expenditures totaling $272,535, the WEA would rank second with $203,826 and AFSCME would come in fourth with $164,209 spent.
- Labor unions spent a total of $1.2 million on lobbying during the 2014 session.
- Unions spent $8,315 per legislator during the 2014 session.
- The highest-paid union lobbyist, Wendy Rader-Konofalski of the WEA, was paid nearly $40,000 for three months of work – 61 percent more than the highest paid lobbyist for the Association of Washington Business.