Why Are Louisiana Government Officials Collecting Union Dues For Big Labor?

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

Of course, these statutes do not in any way limit the ability of members of government unions to pay dues to their labor organizations or contribute to union PACs. Moreover, they do not interfere with any legitimate prerogatives of unions as organizations. As federal Appellate Judge Joel Flaum explained in a 2013 opinion upholding one state’s ban on automatic payroll deduction of union dues, “nothing requires government to assist others in funding the expression of particular ideas . . . .” And, as Flaum also correctly observed, “use of a state’s payroll systems to collect union dues is a state subsidy of speech . . . .”

The National Right to Work Committee regularly supports passage of legislation banning automatic payroll deduction of government union dues in states that already have Right to Work laws on the books. However, such laws are of questionable utility 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.

Why does Big Labor ferociously defend its automatic-payroll-deduction privileges in Right to Work states? Experience shows that, once their employer ceases taking 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. When ongoing union dues payments occur only after the employee  makes a conscious and considered choice, Big Labor bosses almost invariably end up with less money and political clout than they had before.

This year, legislation introduced in Right to Work states like Kansas, Texas and Louisiana would have curtailed government union bosses’ automatic payroll-deduction privileges. But the union political machine, aided and abetted by self-serving politicians in both major parties, was largely successful in blocking such reforms.

Interviewed recently by reporter Kevin Mooney for the Daily Signal, Louisiana state Sen. Danny Martiny (R-Jefferson), the sponsor of one now-dormant bill to put an end to the practice of deducting government union dues from paychecks, said he expected this legislation to be reintroduced “in some form” next year, but acknowledged that passing it won’t be easy.

Martiny went on to explain why he is continuing to fight an uphill battle:

These unions are very political organizations . . . . They take political stands and they lobby for policies and endorse candidates. So I don’t see why the government should pick up the cost of collecting the money for the union. It seems to me like the individual employee and the unions could make their own arrangements.

(See the link below to read all of Mooney’s article.)

Martiny and his allies can take inspiration from the fact that early this year freedom-loving legislators in Right to Work Oklahoma overcame Big Labor obstruction and adopted H.B.1749, a bill barring the taxpayer-subsidized automatic deduction of membership dues for unions with monopoly-bargaining privileges in Oklahoma’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions.  In early April, Sooner State Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed H.B.1749 into law.

Unfortunately, the new Oklahoma law does not revoke the privilege of automatic dues deductions for all state and local government employees. But it is nevertheless a step in the right direction.  And Louisiana’s S.B.204, the bill Martiny tried to push through the Louisiana Legislature this year and may reintroduce in 2016, would protect all types of unionized state and local employees from automatic-payroll-deduction schemes.

As federal Appellate Judge Joel Flaum explained in a 2013 opinion upholding a ban on automatic payroll deduction of union dues, “nothing requires government to assist others in funding the expression of particular ideas . . . .” Image: Sally Ryan Photography

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