Government unions aren’t about fighting for public employees and workers any more — they’ve become political operations with agendas that harm both their members and taxpayers. Americans, and even union members themselves, increasingly realize that public-sector unions often do not serve the public interest.
As a consequence, several states — including Washington, Idaho, Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin — have passed commonsense “paycheck protection” laws to protect employees and taxpayers from being abused by union bosses. Lawmakers in my home state of Pennsylvania are looking to follow their lead. The idea is so sensible that polling suggests the majority of members of Pennsylvania union households support it.
Paycheck protection is a simple reform that would prohibit taxpayer-funded “automatic deduction” of dues and campaign contributions from government-union members’ paychecks. Current law grants government union leaders the unique privilege of using public resources (the government payroll system) to collect their union dues and PAC money, which they use for lobbying and political activity. Dues are mandatory and can go to certain political purposes, while members can agree to make extra donations to PACs — also collected by the state payroll system — which can be spent on almost any political activity.
Like every politically privileged group, union leaders are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to this unfair advantage. Recently, Pennsylvania’s union bosses stormed our state capitol to protest paycheck protection by ranting against “big corporations” and even leading obscene chants. Yet union leaders danced around the core policy issue: whether taxpayer resources should be used for politics.
Perhaps that’s because many bussed-in union protesters actually supported the concept of paycheck protection. When Media Trackers asked protesters why they thought the government should collect their union dues, union members answered that government shouldn’t be involved. Ironically, this is exactly what paycheck protection would mean.
In fact, this is the view of most union members. In a new survey of union households in Pennsylvania, we found that a large majority support paycheck-protection legislation. Nearly two-thirds agreed that such a law would empower workers to have greater control over how their money is spent on politics. Moreover, an overwhelming 80 percent of union households said taxpayer resources should not be used to collect campaign contributions.
Several Pennsylvania legislators have recently gone to prison for using taxpayer resources for politics. Yet government unions are permitted to essentially engage in this practice right under the capitol dome and in public schools across our state.