AGO 1956 No. 244 - Apr 9 1956
INSURANCE, PUBLIC EMPLOYEES, GROUP INSURANCE
Public employees who are labor union members may participate in group insurance under the statutory provisions for labor union groups (RCW 48.24.050) or for public employee associations (RCW 48.24.060).
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April 9, 1956
Honorable Reuben A. Knoblauch
Senator 25th District
Washington State Senate
P.O. Box 363
Sumner, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 244
You have asked our opinion with respect to group insurance coverage for public employees who are members of the Washington Federation of State Employees. This is an organization established for purposes common to labor unions and affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, an International Union chartered by AFL-CIO. For the purpose of this opinion we have considered the Washington Federation of State Employees as a labor union group.
Your question is:
For purposes of regulating a group life insurance program for this organization (Washington Federation of State Employees) does the affiliation with labor of the Washington Federation of State Employees disqualify it as a public employee association under the meaning of RCW 48.24.060.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
We have concluded that your question must be answered in the negative.
The statutory provisions applicable to your inquiry are as follows:
"Labor union groups. The lives of a group of individuals may be insured under a policy issued to a labor union, which shall be deemed the policyholder, to insure members of such union for the benefit of persons other than the union or any of its officials, representatives or agents, subject to the following requirements:
"* * *"
"Public employee associations. The lives of a group of individuals may be insured under a policy issued to an association of public employees formed for purposes other than obtaining insurance and having, when the policy is placed in force, a membership in the classes eligible for insurance of not less than seventy-five percent of the number of employees eligible for membership in such classes, which association shall be deemed the policyholder, to insure members of such association for the benefit of persons other than the association or any of its officials, subject to the following requirements:
"* * *"
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Our research reveals no case authority on this subject. There is a similar lack of text authority. Our opinion is, therefore, based upon an interpretation of the statutes.
The statutes are not exclusive. RCW 48.24.060 contains no language which requires that a public employee may achieve group insurance only under the provisions of that statute. Likewise, RCW 48.24.050 does not require that labor organizations may only achieve coverage as labor organizations. We see nothing in the statute which would prevent a labor organization, or a public employee organization, from obtaining coverage as an employee group (RCW 48.24.020), a debtor group (RCW 48.24.040), a trustee group (RCW 48.24.070), or as an agent group (RCW 48.24.080) if they otherwise met the requirements.
The term "association" as used in RCW 48.24.060, is sufficiently broad to include a labor union. The terms and the statutory provisions are not mutually inconsistent. Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, sets forth the following definitions:
"association 1. An associating, or state of being associated; union; confederation; fellowship.
"union * * * 8. A league or association, esp. a trade‑union * * *"
Black's Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition sets forth the definitions:
"Association The act of a number of persons in uniting together for some special purpose or business.
* * *
"A confederacy or union for particular purposes; good or ill. Johnson's Dict. * * *"
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
"Union. A league; a federation; an unincorporated association of persons for a common purpose; * * *"
We therefore conclude that public employee members of the Washington Federation of State Employees may obtain group insurance under either statute. There must, however, be a selection as to the statute under which the group insurance is to be obtained. Obviously, the requirements of the statute must be met. It is our understanding that there is a current group insurance coverage for public employees who are members of the Washington Federation of State Employees. The insurance contract and the method in which it is handled would be persuasive in determining the statute under which the existing coverage has been obtained. We do not wish to infer that the existing contract, or modus operandi, precludes modifications which would permit coverage under any of the corollary group insurance statutes.
We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
H. E. WIELAND
Assistant Attorney General