Why Arizona Needs Paycheck Protection
The article below was originally published in the Journal of the James Madison Institute. The article is titled “Why Florida Needs Paycheck Protection,” but Florida could just as easily be substituted with “Arizona.” The logic and arguments demonstrated by S. Alex Bohler are compelling reasons for the Grand Canyon State to join a half dozen other states that have enacted some form of paycheck protection laws. The Arizona State Senate is currently struggling to bring paycheck protection legislation to the Senate floor for a vote because of intense pressure by union representatives and lobbyists.
Why are unions so against paycheck protection? Paycheck protection is about protecting the First Amendment rights of union employees, and if union employees have a greater say in how their money is politically spent, this could disrupt the political agendas of Union Bosses. With over 95% of union donations going to Democratic candidates or liberal organizations, it’s no big surprise Big Labor is fighting SB1182 so vehemently.
But why are some Arizona Republicans considering voting “no” on this critical bill? Read the analysis below and tell us what you think.
Labor organizations annually dump tens of millions of dollars into state and national politics. Unfortunately, workers often have no say in how the money is to be used. Enter paycheck protection.
Paycheck protection is the “radical” idea that labor bosses should get written permission from their members before spending the members’ hard-earned wages on politics. Sounds like a nobrainer, doesn’t it? Well, there was a recent battle royal in California over just such a proposal, and the outcome is instructive.
Conservative activists in California gathered enough signatures to put a paycheck protection measure affecting all public sector employees on the ballot. Predictably, the union bosses were so fearful of this modest worker freedom measure that they spent more than $100 million to defeat it. They prevailed. On November 8, paycheck protection lost in California along with all the other amendments on the ballot. Political analysts blamed the defeat on the declining popularity of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was closely associated with four of the proposals. The track record in other states has been better. Paycheck protection was ﬁrst passed by initiative in Washington state in 1992. Since then, ﬁve other states have adopted the measure in different forms. The measure relies on the basic Madisonian principles of individual liberty and freedom of association. That is, public sector workers should not be forced to support candidates or causes with which they disagree.
Paycheck protection measures do not take away a union’s right to spend dues on politics; it simply requires Union Bosses to get permission from each worker before doing so. The California Paycheck Protection measure would have given public employees (teachers, ﬁreﬁghters, and policemen) more control of their hard-earned wages, and would have prevented union bosses from spending dues money on what many rank and ﬁle union members believe to be a radical social agenda.
When Washington state required unions to get permission before collecting a political assessment, those teachers who consented to the automatic deduction to the Washington Education Association’s political action committee dropped from 82 percent to 6 percent. Utah adopted a paycheck protection law in 2001, and nearly 95 percent of Utah Education Association members now refuse to contribute to the association’s political fund. These numbers show how markedly unpopular union political spending is with the local membership.
Such a measure makes good sense for Florida. Now we know what comes next. Union ofﬁcials, like disgraced union boss Pat Tornillo, will cry that Paycheck Protection will interfere with the right of organized labor to inﬂuence politics and support candidates of their choosing. What are they afraid of? Not making a compelling case to their membership to support the union’s political fund? Or do the union bosses have to “tie their members to the mast” by compulsion to actually get their support?
What many in the union leadership really fear, is that many, if not most, of their members will opt out of funding Big Labor’s political and social ideology.
So, you ask, what are some examples of that “political agenda” the Florida Education Association supports? One only has to look to the most recent NEA summer convention and read some of the resolutions that were passed by NEA delegates around the country and supported by delegates from the Florida Education Association.
- Backing a national boycott of Walmart
- Defending afﬁrmative action plans giving college admission preferences for race and ethnicity
- Opposing all forms of privatization in government, even including limited school choice
- Opposing tax cuts and tax reform
- Opposing the Central American Free Trade Agreement
- Backing a program to indoctrinate school children about the “signiﬁcant history of labor unions”
- Supporting a homosexual rights agenda and a curriculum being pushed by several national homosexual organizations
What in the world do these issues have to do with improving the quality of public school education? Why should moderate and conservative teachers, ﬁreﬁghters, and policemen and women be forced to subsidize such hard-Left beliefs? The simple answer is that they shouldn’t.
The ﬁrst response from union ofﬁcials is usually, “Why should unions be singled out for paycheck protection when it doesn’t affect corporations and shareholders?”
The answer is simple. In Florida, the public sector unions enjoy a protected monopoly status under the law. Once state and local governments and school districts recognize a union, the employees in that particular collective bargaining unit are explicitly prohibited from choosing a different union to represent them individually.
In other words, individual employees may not negotiate for themselves, and they cannot choose a different union more closely suited to their needs. In contrast, shareholders who disagree with the practices or politics of a company can easily sell their shares and buy stock in a different company.
Workers who quit the union do not have the right to “switch” their bargaining representation to another union. All they can do is quit their job, a principled but profoundly difﬁcult move in today’s job market.
The second response from the union bosses is that “corporations” already have a huge ﬁnancial advantage in political spending, and that labor must compel workers to “level the playing ﬁeld.” The trouble is that many of the Fortune 500 companies play both sides of the ﬁeld, contributing to both major parties’ coffers to curry political favor and government contracts. While it is true that the Democrats have lagged the Republicans in the number and size of corporate contributions since 1995, the sheer size and breadth of union spending (both ofﬁcial and unofﬁcial) dwarf corporate contributions.
Professor Leo Troy of Rutgers University estimates that in-kind union spending — for phone banks, mailings, get-out-the-vote efforts, rides to the polls — could exceed $300 million every election cycle. The AFL-CIO and its local afﬁliates spent an estimated $100 million alone to mobilize union households against President Bush in 2004. Yet surveys indicate that at least one-third of those same union voters cast their vote for the President in the last election.
Research by the D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform estimates that since 1989, 96 percent of all reported union money given to candidates has gone to Democrats. The truth is that between the massive “off the books” political spending on behalf of liberal causes and candidates, and reported union PAC contributions to Democrats, union bosses have plenty of political inﬂuence.
Forcing a politically diverse workforce in Florida to fund organized labor’s single-party obsession with the Democrats is fundamentally unfair. Paycheck Protection is a commonsense measure that protects workers and requires union bosses to raise political money one individual at a time just like anyone else.
S. Alex Bohler, J.D. is a policy analyst at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, WA. An attorney, he has worked extensively on labor issues at the state and national levels for more than a decade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.