It's an idea that crops up from time to time, unique in that there isn't really any camouflage for it-- it just baldly attempts to make life more difficult for unions.
This time it's coming up in Pennsylvania under one of its common names-- "Paycheck Protection."
This bill pops up in Pennsylvania roughly as often as Punxsutawney Phil, and the rationale is as simple as it is transparent. Here's the bills favorite boosters, the free market think tank Commonwealth Foundation, being excited that the bill is up and rooting around again:
Since 2007, government union leaders in Pennsylvania have spent more than $95 million
on politics—both from members’ mandatory union dues and voluntary
campaign contributions—and taxpayers have been forced to help them do
That is mostly lies.
Union leaders have spent a bunch of money in Harrisburg, but it's illegal for them to spend member dues money on political stuff. That's why PSEA, for example, has a whole separate category for member giving for political action (PACE), and a teacher's money doesn't go to PACE unless they sign up to do so. The argument that unions spend dues money on political activity, from Friedrichs to this new bill, is that everything a union does is political. If they spend dues money on negotiating a contract-- well, negotiating the contract is political. Putting an ad in the school's yearbook is political. Virtually everything a union does outside of retirement teas and new teacher welcomes is branded political by folks who believe that teachers should most properly shut up and do as they're told and never, ever get involved in life outside their classrooms.
But even GOP pushers of these don't always have the cojones to just come out and say, "Lot's of teachers give money to the Democrats and we want to stop that. We want to starve the Democratic Party as just one more way to take total control of state government."
So we have to throw in that second point-- that taxpayers are somehow being charged tons of money for automatic deductions from paychecks. The clearest sign that this is simply baloney is that this complaint never comes up in regard to taxes or social security or the United Way or all the other things that are automatically deducted from paychecks.
But automatic deductions make paying your union dues easy, and opponents want to make paying dues hard (just like they try to make voting Democrat hard) so that some smaller number of people will do it.
One bill (SB 166) was sponsored by State Senator John Eichelberger, the same guy who also recently sponsored the bill to make it easier to strip teachers of sick days.
But also emerging from the Senate Government Committee this week was a bill from Senator Scott Wagner (SB 167) that simply seeks to make automatically deducting union dues illegal for public employees.
Wagner is not particularly shy about his hatred for unions of any sort-- this will be good to remember as he launches his bid for governor on a platform of "liberals suck and government should be shrunk to the size of a pea." Here's what he had to say about his bill
“Paycheck protection has been a top priority for me since coming to
the Senate in 2014,” said Wagner. “Taxpayer money is being used to
collect dues and PAC contributions for public sector unions. The unions
then use that money to lobby against major issues like pension reform
and the elimination of property taxes, both of which are taking a toll
on the Commonwealth and its taxpayers.”
“Opponents argue the cost to taxpayers is minimal,” continued Wagner.
“But cost has never been my focus. These unions are getting away with
an activity that would send anyone else to jail – using taxpayer
resources for political purposes.”
Got that? He doesn't care about the cost, except that it gives him an angle by which to attack the unions. By this argument, of course, teachers should only be able to get involved in political activities if they work for free and are never paid with tax dollars.
SB 167 is extra special because it actually proposes a constitutional amendment, so that we can really establish Pennsylvania as a union-hostile state.That also means that it would have to be approved in two consecutive sessions.
So if you're a teacher in Pennsylvania who has been getting lots of exercise trying to contact Pat Toomey about Betsy DeVos, you'll want to keep those dialing and writing muscles warmed up, because our elected officials are going to need to hear from us again.