Over the course of the last several days, you’ve heard from both APSCUF State President Steve Hicks and APSCUF-WCU President Lisa Millhous about legislation called “Payroll Protection.” The legislation (House Bill 1507 and Senate Bill 1034) contends that public employers are wasting taxpayer money by managing payroll deductions for union dues on behalf of public employee unions; sponsors of the legislation (I’ll say more about them later) also contend that because public unions spend dues money on “political activities,” compulsory dues deductions violate employees’ rights to make decisions about what candidates and lobbying activities we pay for.
As this legislation is under consideration and currently seems to have some chance of passing, there are a handful of important points for you to know so that you can help defeat these bills. To put it as directly as possible, there is exactly one goal behind this legislation–to damage public unions’ ability to collect money in order to kill public unions in the Commonwealth. We’ve seen this legislation and its brethren in several states already (WI, MI, OH, IN are the places you’re likely to have heard about it; a friend in graduate school at the University of Oregon just told me the other night that the same legislation is circulating there).
Point One: There is no evidence that managing payroll deductions costs PASSHE any significant amount of money at all. I’m trying to find specifics but can’t yet. But what we do know is that they manage payroll deductions of various kinds, not just APSCUF, and there’s nothing in the legislation targeting those. It’s not hard to make the connection, is it?
Point Two: The main rationale for the bills is that unions use dues for political (campaign and lobbying) purposes, and that automatic deductions violate employees’ rights to determine which candidates and laws their money supports. This is a sad old song. As an APSCUF member, you already know that we have a separate fund, called CAP (the Committee for Action through Politics) that requires a separate, totally optional/voluntary sign-up before any money is deducted from your paycheck. Moreover, APSCUF’s records (just like every union) makes public every penny we spend on political activities–unlike the shadowy political organizations funding the campaign to kill public unions. It’s no secret what we spend our CAP money on; we don’t want it to be. But for you to find out for sure who’s funding Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (among other examples) is damn near impossible. Neat, huh?
Point Three: As the link to the story about secret corporate money suggests, this legislation didn’t begin with the legislators who introduced and co-sponsored it. It’s based very closely on “model legislation” drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council in 1998. If you’ve followed politics at all since the Wisconsin Uprising, you’re probably familiar with ALEC. To be honest, it’s hard to write about ALEC without sounding really paranoid. If you’re not familiar with them, spend a few minutes on their website. Then spend a few minutes here on the website of ALEC Exposed, a project that tracks ALEC policy, contributions, and the people who participate in it.
ALEC’s membership is comprised largely of three constituencies–lobbyists for large corporate interests (along with the non-profit front groups, “think tanks,” and special interest groups) that support them, and politicians (governors, legislators, and so on) who are willing to do ALEC’s bidding in states and Washington, DC. In short, many members of ALEC are actual legislators (and many of them are from the Commonwealth), and in this case what they’ve put on the floor of both chambers in Harrisburg is language provided for them by professional lobbyists and corporate spokespeople whose interests are clearly not the interests of Pennsylvania citizens. These are the people who brought us Stand Your Ground laws and the Castle Doctrine, which allow people to claim “self-defense” if they kill somebody who makes them feel threatened. If their organization, or affiliated organizations, are responsible for the move to revise the PASSHE Weapons Policy, then to say they’re Second Amendment purists is, well, not very accurate.
It’s hard not to spend hours mapping out the impacts of ALEC on the public sector and public safety all over the United States, but the ALEC Exposed website does a good job of it. For APSCUF’s purposes, for now what’s important to know is that this legislation has no grounding in anything that’s happening in PA except that ALEC and its constituent organizations/political friends hate unions, and are going after us just like they have in other states. The arguments about why we need this legislation are, not to put too fine a point on it, without any merit whatsoever. And as Sean Kitchen’s article (linked in Fact Two) indicates, the strongest motive for pushing the bills is the promise of a gigantic infusion of campaign cash into the coffers of politicians who push it. No “savings.” No taxpayer justice. Just anti-union hate and personal greed.
It’s crucial that we defeat this legislation for any number of reasons, not the least of which is to protect our union against a direct attack on our ability to do our work. Contact your Representative AND your Senator, and call on them to vote against these bills. If you learn that your Representative or Senator is a co-sponsor, obviously your tone will be somewhat different. And make sure everybody you know in a public employee union in PA does the same.