Government Should Not Collect Union Dues

Taxpayer-Funded Bureaucrats Ought Not Do Union Dons’ Job For Them 

(Click here to download the April 2015 National Right to Work Newsletter)

Even in Right to Work states, where Big Labor lacks compulsory-dues privileges, government union officials often wield inordinate power in the policy-making process.

And taxpayers, students and other people who depend on public services, and independent-minded employees whose interests don’t jibe with those of government union bosses suffer as a consequence.

A modest, but significant step elected officials in Right to Work states can take to level the playing field for ordinary citizens is to prohibit the automatic deduction of union dues from public employees’ paychecks.

‘Use of the State’s Payroll Systems to Collect Union Dues Is a State Subsidy’ of Speech

Laws already adopted over the course of the past few years in Right to Work states like North Carolina and Alabama require teacher and other government union chiefs to make their own arrangements with union members regarding dues collections.

“Thanks to bans on automatic payroll deduction of union dues, union bigwigs in North Carolina and Alabama can no longer rely on state or local government officials to siphon union dues out of employee paychecks,” explained Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.

 Appellate Judge Joel Flaum“Of course, these statutes do not in any way limit the ability of members of government unions to pay dues to their labor organization or contribute to union PACs.

“As federal Judge Joel Flaum pointed out in a 2013 opinion upholding one state’s ban on automatic payroll deductions of union dues, ‘use of the state’s payroll systems to collect union dues is a state subsidy of speech . . . .’

“There’s no legitimate public-policy reason to subsidize government union activities with taxpayer-funded resources.

“Moreover, experience shows that, once their employer ceases taking their union dues out of their paychecks at taxpayers’ expense, and they have to take active measures to continue bankrolling the union, public employee union members often decide the organization does not merit their financial support.”

Ban on Automatic Payroll Deduction of Union Dues Now Before Oklahama Senate

Mr. Mourad cautioned that, in states where government union bosses retain the power to force public servants to pay dues or fees to their organization as a condition of employment, bans on automatic payroll deduction are not really worthwhile.

“The first step is to make union membership voluntary. Then it makes sense to ensure ongoing union dues payments are a conscious and considered choice,” he explained.

This year, legislatures in several Right to Work states are considering measures that would curtail government union bosses’ automatic payroll-deduction privileges.

For example, on February 18, the Oklahoma House of Representatives gave its final approval to H.B.1749, sponsored by Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole).

This legislation was subsequently adopted in amended form by the state Senate. The current version now awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

H.B.1749 as amended would prohibit the taxpayer-subsidized automatic deduction of membership dues for unions with monopoly-bargaining privileges at Oklahoma’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

Mr. Mourad said it was unfortunate that this legislation does not revoke the privilege of automatic dues deductions for all state and local government union bosses, but concluded that all the same H.B.1749 is a significant step in the right direction.

“Other states considering rollbacks of automatic payroll deductions for government union chiefs this year include Right to Work Kansas and Texas,” Mr. Mourad noted.

“Like H.B.1749 in Oklahoma, sadly, the Kansas and Texas reforms do not comprehensively eliminate the automatic collection of union dues for state and local government union bosses. But at least legislators are partially addressing the problem.

“Union bosses want taxpayers to finance payroll deductions because they save Big Labor time and money by doing what most other non-charitable organizations have to do on their own.

“Automatic payroll deductions also help union officials avoid a layer of accountability by potentially preventing employees from cutting off funds for the union for up to a year after they decide they no longer want to support it.

“No government has any business helping Organized Labor officials in this way.”