December 2012 – Policy Brief – “Safeguarding Employees’ First Amendment Rights through Paycheck Protection”

By Michael J. Reitz, Esq.
Executive Vice President, Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Adjunct Scholar, The James Madison Institute

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” –Thomas Jefferson

INTRODUCTION:
Many labor unions in America are based on an undemocratic model of forcing workers to accept — and in many states to pay for — the union’s representation in collective bargaining with the employer. Union leaders try to justify this forced representation as a necessary cost for the services provided to all employees in a particular bargaining unit. But unionization comes with an unwanted cost for an employee: The employee’s union dues are used to fund an aggressive political agenda that does not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the workers whom the unions represent.

Labor unions occupy a significant role in American political life. Unions spend millions every year to elect the candidates of their choice. In 2008, for example, organized labor gave $75 million to federal candidates. But that large sum is dwarfed when the true picture of organized labor’s political clout is understood. According to the Wall Street Journal, organized labor spent $1.1 billion from 2005 to 2011 on federal political contributions and lobbying in Washington, D.C. Another $3.3 was spent on polling, member education, and other political efforts.

Paycheck protection laws help preserve the First Amendment rights of workers represented by a union by requiring the union to seek permission from workers before spending their money on political activity. This reform ensures that unions are responsive to their members and that no employee is required to support a political agenda as a condition of employment.

KEY FINDINGS:
• Paycheck protection helps ensure that union-represented employees are not forced to pay for union political activity against their will.
• When given a choice, unionized workers overwhelmingly refuse to finance the union’s political agenda.
• Even in right-to-work states, where workers are not required to pay union dues, a majority of union members refuse to support union political spending.
• The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of several paycheck protection reforms.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS:
• Protect union members by requiring unions to seek their members’ consent before collecting money for political activity.
• Get the state and local governments out of the business of collecting political dues by prohibiting government payroll deductions for political candidates and committees.
• Promote the First Amendment interests of employees and transparent practices by requiring unions to segregate political spending.
• To ensure that all union political spending is supported by voluntary participation, prohibit general fund transfers into political accounts.

View Full Brief:
“Safeguarding Employees’ First Amendment Rights through Paycheck Protection” (PDF)

View Press Release:
“Safeguarding Employees’ First Amendment Rights through Paycheck Protection” Press Release (PDF)

 
 

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