March 03, 2011

A Proposal On Mandatory Public Sector Unionism And Union Political Activity

It is well known that unions give large, overflowing sacks of campaign cash to Democrats. This is especially true of public sector unions. In return, Democrat officials are expected to play dead when it comes to protecting the financial interests of taxpayers, and instead give the public sector unions ever higher salaries and benefits. Part of their ability to do this is based upon the unionís ability to extract mandatory union dues/agency fees from individuals who might not otherwise choose to be a part of the union. In other words, the source of their funding is coerced paycheck deductions rather than voluntary membership Ė and the Democrats are bound and determined to make sure that public sector unions have that coercive power at their disposal.

Now as I have mentioned, I have always struggled with the notion that public employees can be coerced into joining any organization as a condition of public employment. Moreover, this is especially true when that membership forces public employees to give their money for political spending with which they disagree. At the same time, I have a problem with government forbidding groups of Americans from voluntarily joining together to engage in political speech and activity. But I believe there may be a solution to these problems, one that fair-minded Americans of all political persuasions ought to be able to get behind and which ought to be able to pass if politicians are prepared to hold firm to American values rather than their own self-interest.

Simply put, public sector unions must be given a choice Ė either retain the ability to coerce financial support for the union as a condition of public employment, or retain the ability to use funds raised via union dues and fees for purposes of political speech and activity. And to be fair about it, each union must be permitted to decide on its own whether it wishes to be a mandatory union or a political union. To use an example, the State Teacherís Union could continue to maintain its monopolistic hold on teachers by negotiating a union shop agreement with the government Ė but not one penny of the STUís funds could be used to fund direct or indirect spending or contributions to any candidate of any party. If, on the other hand, the STU were to choose to continue to contribute money to individual candidates or political parties, or to use funds for things such as phone banks, then no teacher would be required to join the union and therefore pay this latter day lug to a partisan organization as a condition of employment. And after all, who could possibly object to a ban of government forcing its employees to make political donations as a condition of employment?

Iím curious Ė if such legislation were enacted, which choice would the public sector unions make? Would they demand the right to negotiate wages and benefits for all employees, complete with the ability to compel the government to terminate those who refuse to pay dues or agency fees? Or would they instead opt for becoming explicitly political organizations, based upon voluntary membership?

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