Government Should Stop Collecting Dues for Union Bosses

n a 2014 open letter to Alabama teacher union officials, former state teacher union President Paul Hubbert admitted that the loss of automatic “payroll deduction” privileges was a key reason the union’s finances were deteriorating rapidly. Credit: AP file photo/ Kevin Glackmeyer

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

Now that the constitutional right of public employees nationwide to join and pay dues to a union, or refuse to do either, has finally been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is an opportune time for state lawmakers to do what they can to make sure this right is practicable.

A modest, but significant step that has already been taken by elected officials in several Right to Work states, and should be replicated across the country, is prohibiting the automatic deduction of union dues from public employees’ paychecks.

‘There’s No Legitimate Public-Policy Reason to Subsidize Government Union Activities’

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 a state’s payroll systems to collect union dues is a state subsidy of speech . . . .”

National Right to Work Committee Vice President John Kalb observed:

“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 employees often decide the organization does not merit their financial support.”

Automatic Payroll Deductions Help Union Officials Avoid A Layer of Accountability

Mr. Kalb continued: “Of course, until early this summer, government union bosses in more than 20 states retained the power to force public servants to pay dues or fees to their organization as a condition of employment.

“In such states, bans on automatic payroll deduction were not really worthwhile.

“But in its June 27 Janus ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court, prompted by Right to Work attorneys’ constitutional arguments, concluded that government-sector forced union dues and fees violate the First Amendment.

“Effectively, a national Right to Work law for America’s public servants was established.”

Mr. Kalb continued: “Now that statutes authorizing public-sector forced union dues and fees are no longer enforceable in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, it makes sense for lawmakers to ensure ongoing union dues payments are a conscious and considered choice.

“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.

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

The case of Alabama, which has had a Right to Work law on the books since 1953, illustrates just how valuable such government assistance can be to union bigwigs.

Payroll Deduction Privileges Helped Make Government Union ‘Dominant Power’ in Alabama

With government bureaucrats’ serving as its dues collector, the Alabama Education Association (AEA/NEA) teacher union was for decades a “vaunted force” in Yellowhammer State politics, as Mike Cason of the Alabama Media Group reported in 2014.

But that same year, the “dominant power” of AEA union bosses over state politics began to dwindle as the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), a 2011 law barring automatic payroll deductions for government unions, finally withstood a Big Labor legal challenge and took effect.

In September 2014, former AEA chief Paul Hubbert (who has since passed away) sent an open letter to the union’s board of directors warning that the union was facing a financial “crisis” and acknowledging that Big Labor bosses’ loss of automatic “payroll deduction” was a key reason why.

In January 2016, the Montgomery Advertiser reported that the AEA teachers union, which had been, in writer Brian Lyman’s words, “the engine of Democratic politics in Alabama,” would halt making direct political contributions during the 2015-2016 cycle.

Mr. Kalb concluded: “The Janus decision was a monumental Right to Work victory, but in itself will not prevent government union bosses from wielding inordinate power over tax, education, and other important public policies.

“An array of additional state-level reforms are necessary to eliminate the special privileges the government union elite continues to enjoy in many states post-Janus.

“And elimination of automatic government payroll deductions for Big Labor is a good first step.”


(source: September 2018 National Right to Work Newsletter)