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Paycheck Deception Passes Texas Senate; No House Companion Bill Yet in Sight

Sen. Huffman (via Texas Tribune)

Sen. Huffman (via Texas Tribune)

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SB 1968, which would prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues from paychecks, was passed on a party line vote in the Texas Senate last week.  The “paycheck deception” bill, as labor representatives describe it, would require public employees to pay their dues directly to the union rather than being able to opt for government agencies to deduct the dues.  Shadily, SB 1968 exempts police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers — groups that often vote Republican.  

Sen. Joan Huffman says her measure would “take the state out of the business of collecting union dues” and claims it is not politically motivated.  In response, Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) said: “You’re telling Texans that they no longer have the right to check a box to pay their union dues.  I don’t see how this helps Texans in any way.”

In a statement, Sen. Carlos Uresti blasted SB 1968, noting that it specifically targets hardworking teachers and government employees:

“I strongly oppose this legislation and voted against it.  Paying union dues from your paycheck should be a decision between you and your family.” said Uresti. “It’s one thing to remove this right from state employees, which I oppose as well, but to take it ten steps further and tell our school boards and school teachers that they are not allowed to contribute as they wish—I think it’s bad for local control and a case of big brother insisting he knows best.”

Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) claimed that SB 1968 was part of a broad anti-union agenda being pushed by the far-right on a national level.  He told The Houston Chronicle:

“There is a movement afoot across the country . . . to stifle unions by taking away this method for union membership. Isn’t that really the basis for this legislation? I think this will discourage union membership.”

Unions, labor groups, and Democrats have promised to rally hard against SB 1968 if it is taken up by Texas House.  Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller issued a statement, saying:

“Employees should not lose their freedom to send part of their paycheck as dues to the professional organizations of their choice. Yet, that’s exactly what would happen under SB 1968, the bill to take away the right to payroll dues deduction from teachers, nurses, correctional officers, some firefighters and many other public servants.

The author of the bill and the interests behind it say they are taking aim at employee organizations, but, actually, they are hitting and hurting the individual employees who would lose this safe and secure method of paying dues to the organizations of their choice. The only rationale offered for this legislation was the dislike of the viewpoints of the targeted employees, and we think that’s wrong.”

The Texas AFL-CIO supplied the following reasons for opposing SB 1968:

• No expense to taxpayers:  No state or local funds are required to operate the payroll deduction system. State law explicitly provides that the organization receiving dues is responsible for any administrative costs incurred in processing the deduction. (See, for example, Texas Education Code Section 22.001.)

• Safety and security for employees: Payroll deduction provides a safe and secure means of making payments in timely fashion. The payroll deduction system removes virtually all risk of ID theft and credit card fraud.

• Local authority: SB 1968 curtails the right of local governments to accommodate employee choices for payroll deductions. That right promotes collaboration between employees and local governments.

• State should not pick winners and losers: The state should not endorse or oppose particular viewpoints or organizations through its payroll deduction policies. The state allows literally hundreds of organizations with widely varying views to receive voluntary deductions from state employee paychecks.

• Discrimination among employees without reason: SB 1968 improperly establishes a hierarchy of public employees in which some are deemed worthy of payroll deduction while others are not. All job categories are entitled to respect and the discrimination among categories of employees in this bill has no rational basis.

• Dues cannot be used for political expenditures. Under the Election Code, employee organizations may not use dues dollars for political contributions. Such contributions require formation of a political action committee. All income and expenditures from a PAC must be reported in compliance with state law.    

The future of the bill remains uncertain as there is companion bill in the House.  If Republicans want to take the issue further they must find a sponsor and assign it to a committee.


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