De­duc­tion-pro­hi­bi­tion bill pun­ishes our pro­fes­sion­als

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

It’s alarm­ing to see how quickly some Repub­li­can lead­ers of an ex­trem­ist bent can turn their fol­low­ers on op­po­nents. It’s like Don­ald Suther­land’s space-alien howl and pointed fin­ger in the film, “The Body Snatch­ers.” The ex­trem­ists point to a vil­lain, and their fol­low­ers, full of in­stant an­i­mos­ity, at­tack.

It’s hap­pened to lawyers. It’s hap­pened to women’s health care providers in or­ga­ni­za­tions like Planned Par­ent­hood. It has, of course, hap­pened to racial and re­li­gious mi­nori­ties. It’s hap­pened to peace­ful com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ers like ACORN. It’s hap­pened to teach­ers. It’s hap­pened to union mem­bers

Now Don­ald Trump is do­ing it to the me­dia. He calls jour­nal­ists “en­e­mies of the peo­ple.” Trump’s shouts and ges­tures re­sem­ble Suther­land’s in the clas­sic sci-fi/hor­ror movie. Ev­ery­one whose body has not yet been snatched is an en­emy. They aren’t op­po­nents. They are en­e­mies.

The pic­ture comes to mind as the Texas Leg­is­la­ture con­sid­ers Se­nate Bill 13, which was de­signed to make it harder for vol­un­tary mem­bers of some — just some — unions to pay their dues. Cur­rently, pub­lic em­ployee union mem­bers can have dues au­to­mat­i­cally de­ducted from their pay­checks the same way they have their gym mem­ber­ships and char­i­ta­ble giv­ing are de­ducted.

The bill sin­gles out teach­ers, corrections of­fi­cers and child pro­tec­tive ser­vice work­ers. Po­lice, fire­fight­ers and first re­spon­ders can con­tinue to use the con­ve­nience of au­to­matic de­duc­tions. There is, by the way, no cost to tax­pay­ers for the au­to­matic pay­check de­duc­tions.

State Sen. Joan Huff­man, R-Hous­ton, didn’t earn many new friends when she ex­plained that po­lice and fire­fight­ers weren’t be­ing pun­ished by her bill be­cause they do their jobs with “honor and dis­tinc­tion.” And teach­ers, prison guards and Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices case­work­ers don’t? By the way, po­lice, fire and first-re­spon­der union mem­bers also op­pose the bill. They rec­og­nize a di­vide-and-con­quer strat­egy when they see it.

Some of th­ese work­ers are in the habit of ask­ing leg­is­la­tors to pro­vide re­sources nec­es­sary to ed­u­cate Texas chil­dren. What au­dac­ity! How dare they speak against the au­thor­ity of Repub­li­can lead­ers and bu­reau­crats?

Not that the Repub­li­cans are giv­ing up on the elim­i­na­tion idea. That is in large part what is be­hind their school pri­va­ti­za­tion schemes. Teach­ers in pri­vately run schools that are un­ac­count­able to lo­cal school boards or the state could be forced into po­lit­i­cal docil­ity.

Texas is a right-to-work state. That means no one can be forced to join a union. They are vol­un­tary. But many on the right have long con­sid­ered the brother­hood and sis­ter­hood of unions to be anath­ema? Why?

Well, al­liances and friend­ships among em­ploy­ees threaten the au­thor­ity of some bosses, par­tic­u­lar the more para­noid or in­se­cure bosses. It’s as sim­ple as that. Many on the right be­lieve em­ploy­ees are chil­dren who should obey their “par­ents” at the top of or­ga­ni­za­tion hi­er­ar­chies. Em­ploy­ees who band to­gether to ask for bet­ter pay or ben­e­fits are seen as un­ruly kids. They need to be pun­ished.

And that’s what Huff­man’s bill — made a pri­or­ity by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick — is all about. It seeks to pun­ish some union mem­bers be­cause they some­times chal­lenge au­thor­ity and au­thor­ity doesn’t like that.

There is no real pub­lic pol­icy rea­son be­hind the bill. It is, how­ever, a pet pro­ject of Em­power Texas, a far-right group that has tried very hard over the years to un­seat Repub­li­can Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

Leav­ing aside the in­sult­ing “someare-more-hon­or­able-than-others” ar­gu­ments, the cen­tral ar­gu­ment for sin­gling out teach­ers and a few others for pun­ish­ment rings hol­low. Ad­vo­cates say it’s not fair for the state to deduct dues for em­ploy­ees when those em­ploy­ees might later show up ad­vo­cat­ing for this or that ac­tion. Se­ri­ously?

Those who make such an ar­gu­ment hyp­o­crit­i­cally over­look the mas­sive amount of cor­po­rate tax breaks and other fi­nan­cial fa­vors leg­is­la­tors pro­vide their cronies. Mil­lions of those dol­lars are then used by the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of leg­isla­tive largess to make cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions or to fi­nance lob­by­ing and other ad­vo­cacy ef­forts.

All this shout­ing and fin­ger-point­ing ought to be a wake-up call for all of us. Body snatch­ers never tire of find­ing the un­snatched to vil­lainize. Next time the Suther­land fin­ger might point at, say, rowdy neighborhood ac­tivists or com­mit­ted PTA lead­ers. Or you.

Huff­man’s bill is pend­ing be­fore the state Se­nate.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.