Texas dues-col­lect­ing helps unions to ha­rass em­ploy­ers

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

From 2005-15, Texas has ac­tively col­lected more than $49 mil­lion in dues on be­half of po­lit­i­cally ac­tive la­bor unions, not in­clud­ing data from school dis­tricts, cities and coun­ties.

Here’s a sim­ple ques­tion: Why don’t la­bor unions col­lect their own dues?

Re­cently, the Se­nate State Af­fairs Com­mit­tee ap­proved Se­nate Bill 13, au­thored by state Sen. Joan Huff­man R-Hous­ton, the State Af­fairs Chair, which sim­ply states that la­bor unions should col­lect their own dues.

The bill ex­empts po­lice, fire, and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices out of po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity and due to the fact that first-re­spon­der unions do not use their state-col­lected union dues to ha­rass em­ploy­ers in Texas. Com­pan­ion leg­is­la­tion — House Bill 510 — has been filed by State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Hous­ton.

It sim­ply bog­gles the mind that as a “right-to-work” state, Texas con­tin­ues to col­lect the dues of pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions that spend money on lob­by­ing, po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, and com­plex and sus­tained ef­forts to ha­rass pri­vate-sec­tor com­pa­nies.

Auto-de­ducted char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions from state em­ploy­ees are not the same thing, since those con­tri­bu­tions to qual­i­fied non­prof­its pre­vent spend­ing on po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity or lob­by­ing, a pro­hi­bi­tion unions don’t have.

The Texas Tri­bune’s Ross Ram­sey ar­gued oth­er­wise in a re­cent col­umn, writ­ing that “state law al­ready pre­vents pay­roll de­duc­tions for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses — the union and non-union as­so­ci­a­tions col­lect­ing th­ese dues can’t use that money for the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees or for other po­lit­i­cal ex­penses.”

But An­nie Spil­man of the Na­tional Fed­eral of In­de­pen­dent Busi­nesses ar­gues: “Unions and as­so­ci­a­tions can­not write PAC checks out of their mem­ber­ship dues rev­enue (col­lected by our state gov­ern­ment). Do­na­tions to their PAC can only be spent on PAC ex­penses, but the mem­ber­ship dues money can be and are used to pay for their ad­min­is­tra­tion of the PAC, their or­ga­niz­ing ef­forts and their po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy = lob­by­ing. On both the state and lo­cal level, the gov­ern­ment col­lects for Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees (ASFCME) — this is the largest arm of the pub­lic sec­tor union AFL-CIO. If a la­bor union only has pub­lic sec­tor mem­bers, they do not have to file dis­clo­sure and fil­ings forms, which make it trans­par­ent in what they’re do­ing with their mem­ber­ship dues rev­enue. AFSCME only has pub­lic sec­tor mem­bers in Texas and there­fore has no dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments. ASFCME only has to file a form 990 with the IRS, which tells us noth­ing of their spend­ing. So, we (the gov­ern­ment) are col­lect­ing mil­lions of dol­lars for ASFCME, and yet we have no clue how their money is be­ing spent. We don’t know if that money is go­ing into their PAC.”

AFSCME re­cently an­nounced it is fund­ing a new ini­tia­tive with for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder and trial lawyers in our state to in­flu­ence re­dis­trict­ing in Texas and other states. This is lob­by­ing.

La­bor unions at­tack pri­vate busi­nesses all the time — and when they do, it of­ten be­comes nasty and ex­pen­sive for the em­ploy­ers who are forced to deal with it.

Brent South­well, who is CEO of Pro­fes­sional Jan­i­to­rial Ser­vices Hous­ton, tes­ti­fied Sept. 14 at Se­nate State Af­fairs that he had been “the tar­get of a decades­long as­sault by the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union (SEIU)” and that af­ter suc­cess­fully fight­ing to pre­vent SEIU from tak­ing over his com­pany, his law­suit against SEIU re­sulted in a $5.3 mil­lion judg­ment and $2.5 mil­lion in in­ter­est, to­tal­ing more than $7.8 mil­lion — which SEIU still has not paid be­cause they are claim­ing bank­ruptcy. This fight with SEIU in Hous­ton con­sumed 10 years of this CEO’s time and en­ergy.

Since la­bor unions have al­most no re­quire­ments for dis­clo­sure and trans­parency with spend­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, how are union dues and their cor­re­lated spend­ing not con­sid­ered dark money?

The ar­gu­ment that la­bor unions shouldn’t have to col­lect their own dues is ridicu­lous. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery util­ity bill in Texas is paid by au­to­matic elec­tronic funds trans­fer, check or credit card — not through state-or­ga­nized pay­roll de­duc­tion.

AFSCME has 4 mil­lion mem­bers in Texas. We are sup­posed to be­lieve that they can­not col­lect their own dues, but the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness and its 300,000 mem­bers must col­lect its own dues?

Texas needs to end the cor­ro­sive, un­nec­es­sary and ridicu­lous prac­tice of the gov­ern­ment col­lect­ing union dues.

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