The legislation may be controversial but the issue is simple: Government unions can collect their own dues

Under current law, government union dues can be collected via automatic payroll deduction from state, parish and city employees. The government deducts the dues from the employee’s paycheck and then remits these funds to the union.

This year Representative Stuart Bishop and Senator Danny Martiny filed bills (HB418 and SB204) to prohibit the practice of deducting government union dues from paychecks. This measure, often referred to as Paycheck Protection, would make the unions responsible for collecting dues from their members. Yesterday the House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations approved Rep. Bishop’s bill by a vote of 9 to 6.

Why is it a good idea to implement Paycheck Protection in Louisiana?

  1. Louisiana should not serve as a bill collector for government unions. While the cost of processing the payroll deduction and remitting to the unions is modest, taxpayers should not bear any cost to do what the unions can do for themselves. Raising funds through the collection of member dues is the responsibility of the unions, not state or local government.
  2. Government unions are political entities and should not receive special treatment. Many government unions devote a significant amount of their resources to electioneering and lobbying efforts. State and local government has no business collecting the money that will be used to elect and influence policymakers. The unions have the right to have their voice heard at the Capitol and elsewhere, but they do not have the right to outsource their fundraising to the government. Membership organizations that seek to influence public policy must be responsible for their own fundraising.
  3. Louisiana policymakers should not facilitate the advancement of a political agenda that is abhorrent to many union members and Louisiana taxpayers. The unions are free to advance whatever political agenda they choose, but Louisiana taxpayers should not be forced to lend a helping hand by collecting the dues that fund political activity. The largest of the government unions are the teacher unions. While they dedicate a portion of their resources to non-political issues, much of their budget goes to advance political causes and candidates. The unions support a host of policy positions that many union members and taxpayers disagree with; including restrictive gun control laws, taxpayer funded abortion, ObamaCare and a host of other causes that have nothing to do with putting better teachers in our classrooms.

The unions describe this effort as an attempt to silence them. This is obviously false, as Paycheck Protection simply requires them to collect their own dues and does not place restrictions upon their advocacy efforts. Given the modest cost of collecting and processing these dues, it seems likely that unions fear any change that makes the price of membership more transparent and the process of dropping membership any easier.

Unions have also argued that other organizations are able to utilize payroll deduction, such as credit unions and insurance companies. But this is a poor comparison, as those companies are service providers, not membership organizations that engage in the degree of political activity that characterizes government unions.

The rise of government unions has led to more expensive and less responsive government at the federal, state and local level. It has created an environment where union leaders get to lobby and negotiate with the lawmakers they help elect, a recipe for bad policymaking. Among other things, this has fueled the dramatic increase in spending on pensions and benefits that threatens the solvency of cities and states across the country.

Although these complex problems cannot be solved overnight, legislators can take a step in the right direction by ending special treatment for government unions. Paycheck Protection makes sense because it gets Louisiana taxpayers out of the business of political fundraising for special interests.