Washington Union Shop Law

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Washington Union Shop Law

United States 1973


The Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) helped to initiate and pass the Union Shop Bill that became law in the state of Washington on 20 March 1973. A union shop agreement is a clause of a collective bargaining agreement whereby an employer hires persons without regard to their membership or nonmembership in a labor union that represents its employees, with the provision that the person hired must become a member of the union after a specified period. This union shop law for civil service employees was the first of its kind in the United States.


  • 1958: China's Mao Zedong proclaims the Great Leap Forward, a program of enforced rapid industrialization that will end a year later, a miserable failure.
  • 1963: Assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on 22 November.
  • 1968: Communist victories in the Tet offensive mark the turning point in the Vietnam War, and influence a growing lack of confidence in the war, not only among America's youth, but within the establishment as well.
  • 1973: Signing of peace accords in Paris in January ends the Vietnam War.
  • 1973: As the Watergate scandal grows, White House advisers H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman resign, and Nixon fires counsel John Dean. Later, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns. Then, in the October "Saturday Night Massacre," Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson resigns, and Nixon fires special prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus.
  • 1973: Overthrow of Chile's Salvador Allende, the only freely elected Marxist leader in history, who dies in the presidential palace. According to supporters of the new leader, General Augusto Pinochet, Allende committed suicide; but Allende's supporters maintain that he was killed by Pinochet's troops.
  • 1973: Attacked in October, during their Yom Kippur religious festival, the Israelis defeat the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Three weeks later, Arab nations impose an oil embargo on the United States to punish it for its continued support of Israel.
  • 1973: United States launches Skylab, its first space station.
  • 1973: Completion of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, built at a cost of $750 million. The 110-story buildings are the world's tallest, but by year's end they will be eclipsed by the Sears Tower in Chicago.
  • 1978: More than 900 members of the People's Temple, led by Jim Jones, kill themselves in Jonestown, Guyana. Also dead is Congressman Leo Ryan, who was visiting the Guyana compound and was presumably murdered.
  • 1983: A Soviet fighter plane shoots down a Korean Air Lines 747 that had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 269 passengers, including 61 Americans (among them U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald), are killed.
  • 1988: A terrorist bomb aboard a Pan Am 747 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people on the plane and 11 more on the ground.

Event and Its Context

The Washington Federation of State Employees

On 8 November 1960 the civil service initiative (Initiative 207) for the state of Washington passed by the wide margin of 606,511 to 471,730. At about the same time, the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) was acting to combat workplace discrimination, which occurred frequently with regard to the civil service employees of the state of Washington.

During the 1960s the WFSE organized many bargaining units and negotiated several employer-employee contracts. The union, however, still faced many barriers that were applied to civil service employees throughout the state. These early civil rights actions eventually led to passage of a law that allowed the union shop for civil service employees in the state of Washington.

Preliminary Civil Service Rights and the Victories of the WFSE

In December 1961 the executive board of the WFSE created a union civil rights committee whose express purpose was to ensure that state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment and promotion because of age, national origin, race, and religion, were observed to the fullest extent of the law. During the next 15 years and beyond, the WFSE committee actively pursued the enactment of important laws for the civil service employees of the state of Washington. As the result of a 1962 convention resolution from Olympia Local 443, WFSE won passage in 1963 of House Bill 6, which for the first time allowed the state, when sufficient funds were available, to pay some of the premiums for the state employee medical insurance. Additional state health benefits were realized in 1965.

In 1967 the WFSE secured passage of legislation amending the civil service law. The Public Employees Collective Bargaining Law of 1967 broadly expanded the union's authority to bargain collectively. With enactment of this law, state managers were for the first time forced to deal with a union and, in essence, to share power with an officially appointed bargaining agent of its employees. It also required the state to engage in collective bargaining with the employees and to deal with them on an equal basis. Although the law removed several barriers to union organizing and bargaining, it still left the actual establishment of wages, benefits, and other economic issues in the control of the Washington state legislature.

The WFSE achieved steady progress in the early 1970s. In 1971 the WFSE secured passage of unemployment coverage; in 1972, a Public Assistance contract; and in 1973, an executive order (EO 71-04) guaranteeing the rights of state employees (in agencies under the jurisdiction of the governor) to union representation. The 1973 institutions law gave the state's public sector employees the opportunity to have an active voice in determining their working conditions, as well as the manner in which each employee's work was to be performed. Larry Goodman, the director of field services within the WFSE, stated in the mid-1990s that the 1973 institutions law proved to be a model law, one that did not change fundamentally for two decades.

The Union Shop Law

By the early 1970s, the leaders of the WFSE became aggravated by workers who refused to join the union but still were able to enjoy the benefits gained by the union. The majority of the state's civil service employees were of the opinion that whether or not one was a member of the union, that employee still received all the increased benefits that had been won by the union. In 1972 Executive Director Norm Schut began the slow process of attaining approval for a union shop law from the state legislature and the state governor. The purpose of the bill would be to require a union shop for civil servants. In other words, it was a mechanism mandating that all employees who are within a particular bargaining unit and covered by a collective bargaining agreement must join the exclusively recognized employee organization and must pay dues and initiation fees after a specified period of employment. The bill did not require a group of civil service employees to be represented by a union, but only stated that if a union represented a group, then all employees within that group must join the union.

Schut helped modify the bill to overcome objections from such groups as the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the National Civil Service League, and the Washington Public Employees Association. Even so, the governor vetoed a portion of the bill. Political columnist Mike Layton wrote of Shut's work, "Schut . . . shepherded the bill through the Legislature with all the care of a Scottish sheep dog bringing home the ewes."

On 31 January 1973 a bipartisan group of politicians from the Washington state House of Representatives sponsored the Union Shop Bill 489. Representatives Barden, Cessarelli, Charette, Paris, Perry, and Thompson took the proposal to the floor of the House on 15 February 1973, where it was debated and passed on the following day by a vote of 69 to 27. It was soon debated in the Senate of Washington state, where it passed by a vote of 34 to 15 on 27 February 1973. It became law on 20 March 1973.


Within a year, membership of the WFSE/AFSCME rose to 13,700 union members (from 5,000 members in 1973) as union members in several bargaining units voted to create union shops. The Buildings and Grounds workers in the Department of General Administration voted in the first union shop on 26 October 1973. Less than two weeks later, physical plant workers at Western Washington State College in Bellingham voted in the first WFSE/AFSCME union shop in higher education.


The union shop law in the state of Washington, the first state to allow the union shop for civil service employees, allowed the WFSE to organize and develop a stable membership. WFSE president Howard Jorgenson noted at the time that he considered the union shop law the greatest accomplishment by the union in more than 20 years.

Key Players

Schut, Norm: Schut was the executive cirector of the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE)—an affiliate of the American Federation of State, Civil, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Workers (AFL-CIO).



Heitman, Herrick. "State Library." Washington Secretary ofState [cited 6 December 2002]. <http://www.statelib.wa.gov>.

Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. Association of Capitol Powerhouse Engineers, Appellant, v. The State of Washington, et al, Respondents. 27October 1977 [cited 6 December 2002]. http://www. mrsc.org/mc/courts/supreme/89wn2d/89wn2d177. htm.

Washington Federation of State Employees. "A Brief History of WFSE/AFSCME's First 50 years, 1943-1993" [cited 6 December 2002]. <http://www.wfse.org/hist1.htm>.

——. "Homepage of WFSE" [cited 6 December 2002].<http://www.onevoice-wfse.org/>.

——. "Marching to the Future: The First 50 years ofWFSE/AFSCME." Originally published in November 1993 WFSE/AFSCME Washington State Employee [cited 6 December 2002]. <http://www.wfse.org/hist4.htm>.

—William Arthur Atkins

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Washington Union Shop Law

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Washington Union Shop Law