NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Paycheck Protection Threatens Union Coffers

January 6, 1998

Unions have regularly used dues for political purposes. Courts have ruled that union members may refuse to have the politically earmarked dues deducted from their paychecks, but this right has not been generally enforced.

California and at least three other states are set to vote next year on initiatives that bar corporations and unions from collecting or using money from employees or union members for political purposes without their written permission.

  • The concept is overwhelmingly popular with voters -- with Democrats and union members favoring the idea by more than two to one, and 72 percent of all voters supporting it.
  • In addition to California, "paycheck protection" initiatives are scheduled in Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. Ohio, Missouri and Florida may also see initiative drives.

After voters approved a campaign reform initiative including "paycheck protection" in Washington state in 1992:

  • The number of teachers willing to finance their union's political agenda fell from more than 45,000 to only 8,000.
  • The number of public employees contributing to union political action committees fell to an astonishing 82 from more than 40,000.
  • The state's attorney general is suing the teachers' union -- charging it with as much as $574,000 in improper political expenditures that have "severely frustrated the public's right to know" who is financing political campaigns.
  • The union is also charged with using its "community outreach" fee -- said to be a disguised attempt to replace vanishing PAC contributions -- to illegally finance opposition to school vouchers and charter school initiatives in 1996.

In addition to state-level initiatives, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case this spring in which 150 Delta Airlines pilots claim their union has attempted to block their efforts to get refunds of compulsory union dues that go to politics.

Source: Editorial, "Paycheck Protection," Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1998.


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