Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1956 No. 271 - May 23, 1956
AGO Opinion Header Image
Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

STATE OF WASHINGTON ‑- PUBLIC EMPLOYEES LABOR UNIONS ‑- PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS FOR UNION DUES

It is lawful for any department of the government of the State of Washington in its discretion to deduct union dues from the wages or salary of any employee who presents it with a proper written assignment thereof.

It is lawful for the auditor of the State of Washington in his discretion, upon being presented with a written assignment of a state employee's wages for union dues and properly itemized vouchers, to deduct union dues from the employee's warrant and pay the same to the assignee labor union.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   May 23, 1956

Honorable Reuben Knoblauch
State Senator, 25th District
P.O. Box 363
Sumner, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 271


Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion from this office on the following questions:

            (1) Can state employees belonging to labor unions be granted a voluntary payroll deduction of union dues?

            (2) Is the state auditor permitted to recognize such a request and put such a program into operation?

            We answer both of your questions in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]                                          

            Answering your first question, the pertinent statute provides as follows:

            RCW 49.52.060

            "It is lawful for an employer to withhold or divert any portion of an employee's wages when required or empowered so to do by state or federal law, or when a deduction has been expressly authorized in writing in advance by the employee for a lawful purpose accruing to the benefit of such employee, and it is lawful for an employer to withhold deductions for medical, surgical, or hospital care or service, pursuant to any rule or regulation:  Provided, That the employer derives no financial benefit from such deduction and it is openly, clearly, and in due course recorded in the employer's books."

            It has been held that the above quoted statute applies to all public employers.  State v. Carter, 18 Wn. (2d) 590.  An opinion of this office under date of January 12, 1953, OAG 51-53 No. 457 [[Opinion No. 51-53-457 to W. Carmichael, State Representative]], held that a municipal corporation could withhold union dues of its employees on written request of the employee.

            Public officials have the implied power to hire deputies and employees necessary to carry out the duties imposed upon them by public office.  The power to employ necessarily implies the power to enter contracts of employment.  Christie v. Port of Olympia, 27 Wn. (2d) 534, 550.  In the absence of statutory restriction public employers of the State of Washington have very broad powers to define the terms of employment contracts with their employees.  Seattle High School Chapter No. 200 of the American Federation of Teachers v. Sharples, 159 Wash. 424.

            The deduction of union dues from the wages of public employees, where expressly authorized in writing in advance by the employees, is made lawful by RCW 49.52.060 as construed inState v. Carter, supra.  We have been unable to find any statute prohibiting this practice by the various departments of the government of the State of Washington.  On  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the basis of the authority cited above, it is our opinion that the department of our state government have the power to make such payroll deductions at the request of their employees as an incident of their power to define the terms of employment.  This conclusion is supported by the cases of Mugford v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 185 Md. 266, 44 A. (2d) 745, andKirkpatrick v. Reid, 193 Misc. 702, 85 N.Y.S. (2d) 378, which affirmed the power of public employers to honor voluntary payroll deductions for union dues in the States of Maryland and New York respectively.

            Answering your second question, an opinion of this office to the Honorable Cliff Yelle, State Auditor, under date of March 15, 1940, 40 AOG 256 [[1940 OAG 256]], indicated that a county auditor in his discretion could break down salary warrants upon being presented with properly itemized vouchers and written assignments executed by the employees for the purpose of an insurance fund for county employees.  We find no distinction in principle between that situation and the situation presented by your question.

            Further, in view of the language of RCW 49.52.060 and the fact that we have been unable to discover any authority prohibiting such practice, we feel that the state auditor has discretionary power to recognize such assignments and to break down the salary warrants in such instances.

            We conclude that it is lawful for any department of the government of the State of Washington in its discretion to deduct union dues from the wages or salary of any employee who presents it with a proper written assignment thereof, and that it is lawful for the auditor of the State of Washington in his discretion, upon being presented with a written assignment of a state employee's wages for union dues and properly itemized vouchers, to deduct union dues from the employee's warrant and pay the same to the assignee labor union.

            We hope that this opinion will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


DUANE S. RADLIFF
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo