With the Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries-fueled Americans for Prosperity as the driving forces, several payroll deduction bans are being pursued around the country. These laws prevent unions from automatically deducting union dues from their members’ paychecks. The deduction practice, ubiquitous and well-liked among union members, facilitates the process of dues collection, thereby preventing added accounting costs and promoting equality and unity among members. Opponents of the practice, who double as anti-union actors across the board, are interested in stripping unions of this accounting right in order to inhibit the process of mobilizing funds for political purposes.
Earlier this month, the Kansas House passed “a bill prohibiting unions from making paycheck deductions for political activities.” Unions had protested and rallied, calling the battle their Wisconsin.
Kansas House Bill 2130 got final approval in that chamber Thursday and now goes to the Senate. It is a transparent attempt to strip already weakened unions of what little political power they have left.
The bill’s supporters — among them the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity — pretend that the legislation is aimed at protecting workers’ rights.
That’s baloney. Kansas is a right to work state. Not only is it illegal to make union membership a condition of employment, union members cannot be forced to provide financial support to political causes and candidates.
No, what HB 2130 does is attempt to limit the political influence of unions, which tend to support Democrats. It denies union members the right to make voluntary payroll deductions to union political action committees.
Now, an Alabama judge has taken a worker-supportive stance, suspending a similar law which passed in Alabama during a December special session.
[Lynwood] Smith said in an 87-page order that the act passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in a December special session “clearly appears” to attempt to regulate the political activities of the Alabama Education Association. Smith also ruled that the language in the statute is “so vague that it fails to provide sufficient guidance to enforcement authorities or fair notice to the individual public employees subject to its terms.”
Some of the language in Alabama’s law is similar to Florida’s. According to the Times, it bars government employees from automatically deducting union dues from their paychecks by banning the practice for “membership organizations that use funds for political activities.” Thrasher’s bill bars payroll deductions for dues to “employee organizations” or for political activity.
There have been some red herrings in the debate over the measure in this state. Some of the bill’s backers, such as the Chamber of Commerce, refer to the law as “payroll protection,” arguing it would protect union members from being coerced to hand over money for unions’ political causes. Both Thrasher and other supporters of the bill have said that has nothing to do with it.
The absurdity of the CoC and Thrasher argument is well-known. The Florida Independent author notes what every balanced, knowledgeable payroll deduction story makes clear: “It’s tough for unions to coerce anyone in a right-to-work state, where membership is optional.”
Alabama, Florida and Kansas are all right-to-work states.
So what’s the potential harm in banning payroll deductions? In Alabama, since the law’s passing in December, it has amounted to a 17% reduction in dues collection among teachers:
Hubbert, the only witness called by either side, testified that only 83 percent of AEA’s 105,000 members had signed up to have their dues collected through a bank draft…If AEA lost the remaining 17 percent, it could add up to $2.4 million in lost dues each year, Hubbert testified.