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AGO 1955 No. 135 - September 07, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Longshoremen, who work as casual, intermittent employees of a port district are not public employees within the contemplation of chapter 377, Laws of 1955, and need not be required to subscribe to the non-subversive [[nonsubversive]] oath.

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                                                               September 7, 1955

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 135

Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins, Chief Examiner
            Division of Municipal Corporations

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of August 3, 1955, in which you request the opinion of this office as to whether or not longshoremen intermittently employed by port districts must subscribe to the non-subversive [[nonsubversive]]oath.  You advise that the custom is for the port district officials when in need of longshoremen to call the dispatcher at the local union hiring hall and have a given number of men report for a particular job.  We are informed that although the port district pays the wages of these men, it has no voice in selecting which workmen report, and that the amount of time they spend in the employ of a port district is small compared to the time they work for other employers.

            In our opinion such casual employees are not public employees within the contemplation of chapter 377, Laws of 1955, and need not be required to sign the non-subversive [[nonsubversive]]oath.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]


            Section 1, chapter 377, Laws of 1955, provides in part as follows:

            "Every person and every board, commission, council, department, court or other agency of the state of Washington or any political subdivision thereof, * * * shall require every employee or applicant for employment to state under oath whether or not he or she is a member of the communist party or other subversive organization, * * *"

            A port district is a municipal corporation under the provisions of RCW 53.04.060.  Thus it is clear that port districts are within the purview of chapter 377, Laws of 1955, as political subdivisions of the state of Washington.  This requires us to ascertain the legislative intention as to the scope of the term "every employee or applicant for employment."

            In 1951 the legislature enacted chapter 254, the Subversive Activities Act.  Section 11 of the 1951 act (RCW 9.81.060) provides as follows:

            "No subversive person, as defined in this act, shall be eligible for employment in, or appointment to any office, or any position of trust or profit in the government, or in the administration of the business, of this state, or any county, municipality, or other political subdivision of this state."

            Section 1, chapter 377, amended section 12 of the 1951 act.  Section 11 remains in effect.

            In arriving at the legislative intention as to the meaning of a particular provision, it is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that the act should be read in its entirety.  We cannot believe that the legislature intended that casual, intermittent workmen who perform manual labor for a port district under a contractual arrangement between the district and the union whereby the port district has no voice in selecting the individuals who report  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] for work should be within the purview of the Subversive Activities Act.  The work they perform is unquestionably vital and essential to the economic vigor of our country.  However, we do not believe that such work can be characterized as "employment in an office or position of trust or profit in the government or in the administration of the business of a municipality."

            The cases are by no means unanimous in the definition of the term "employee."  InSills v. Sorenson, 192 Wash. 318, the court stated at page 324:

            "The word 'employee,' though more euphonious, has the same legal significance as the word 'servant.'  It imports some sort of continuous service rendered for wages or salary and subject to the direction of the employer or master as to how the work shall be done."

            In construing the meaning of the word "employee" in a statute the courts usually adopt the view that the term should be defined in the light of what the statute is designed to accomplish.  Reading the statute in its entirety, we do not believe that the legislature had in mind that the non-subversive [[ nonsubversive]]oath must be taken by casual, intermittent employees who have no position of profit or trust and have no voice in the administration of the business of the state or its political subdivisions.

            Accordingly, we specifically advise that in our opinion longshoremen who perform services for port districts under the contractual arrangement set forth in your letter are not public employees within the contemplation of chapter 337, Laws of 1955, and therefore need not be required to sign the non-subversive [[nonsubversive]]oath.

            We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

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