Drawing the ire of the unions
"We pursued those folks after many years of trying to persuade them to pay their fair share," said Tim Welch, spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees.
The lawsuits are the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute over mandatory union dues for state workers, which began in 2005 as part of the first contracts to set pay and benefits.
The lawsuits have been filed for months, but a conservative think tank recently found the total number of sued workers listed in the meeting minutes of a federation local.
The union represents about 40,000 state government and college employees. Dues are a percentage of salary, up to $76.50 a month.
Welch said he could not confirm the 1,900-lawsuit figure, which would amount to 5 percent of the membership.
The Olympia-based Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a frequent foe of unions, called the lawsuits "bullying tactics."
"A lot of these people never consented to being members," said Sonya Jones, director of labor policy at the foundation.
A legal defense against the lawsuits might go back to the original contract making dues mandatory, she added.
Unions were able to negotiate with the governor for the first time in 2004. As a condition of allowing mandatory dues, then-Gov. Gary Locke's team required unions to allow all affected workers to vote on the contract. . . .
Many workers said they were not told dues would be part of the two-year deal. . . . .