October 4 2012
Will the Third Time Be a Charm for Paycheck Protection in California?
Vicki E. Alger
California’s Proposition 32 would ban the current practice of deducting political contributions from employees’ paychecks without their express permission, referred to as paycheck protection. This is sending the state’s largest teachers union, the Califoria Teachers Association, into a tizzy according to Larry Sand, a retired teacher and president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. He explains in the October issue of City Journal:
[P]ayroll deductions are the unions’ bread and butter. Every public-employee union in the state deducts money from members’ paychecks alongside the withholding for federal and state income taxes. Right now, the only way an employee can recoup the political portion of these dues is to “resign” from the union and ask for a rebate—an onerous process. Prop. 32 would turn the tables on union political fundraising, and so the unions have invested heavily in defeating it.
So far, Prop. 32 opponents have outraised supporters by roughly five-to-one. As of September 24, the Prop. 32 campaign had raised about $9 million, while the opposition collected $41.3 million. Nearly $17 million of that total came directly from the CTA.
Previous attempts to pass versions of paycheck protection in California in 1998 and 2005 were defeated by virtually identical—and slim—margins, 53 percent to 47 percent. Sand explains:
How do teachers’ unions justify automatic deductions? Bob Chanin, then-general counsel of the National Education Association, explained it in 1978: “It is well-recognized that if you take away the mechanism of payroll deduction you won’t collect a penny from these people [teachers], and it has nothing to do with voluntary or involuntary. I think it has a lot to do with the nature of the beast, and the beasts who are our teachers. . . [They] simply don’t come up with the money regardless of the purpose.” What Chanin seemed to be saying is that teachers are too greedy, lazy, or unenlightened to know what’s good for them, so the union leadership should take members’ money and spend it as they see fit. …
How is a system fair in which union members’ dues flow, without their consent, to candidates and campaigns whose views they and other taxpayers may not share? And why should a worker have to take the initiative to avoid contributing to political causes deemed worthy by his union bosses? “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves,” Thomas Jefferson once declared, “is sinful and tyrannical.” Public-employee unions are the living embodiment of this practice.