Wyoming became the fourth state in the nation to enact "paycheck protection" when Governor Jim Geringer (R) signed legislation on March 12 requiring labor unions to obtain annual written permission from union members before using money from mandatory union dues for political activity.
Geringer said: "In Wyoming, we treasure our independence. We guarantee an individual's right of political freedom - independent of the union view."
Wyoming is a right-to-work state where labor union membership is voluntary. Proponents of a paycheck protection ballot initiative in Nevada, which is also a right-to-work state, see the passage of the Wyoming legislation as significant since its opponents say such a protection is unnecessary where union membership is not mandated. A recent lawsuit filed against the "Workers Rights Initiative" by organized labor and supported by Nevada Governor Bob Miller (D) argues that "because no worker is required to belong to any union ... the voluntariness of workers' contributions to their union's political activity does not justify its impairment of the membership contract between union and workers."
Nevada Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Charles Muth said, "Wyoming's action . . . eliminates yet another of the false objections being advanced by labor bosses who will do and say anything to keep their ability to skim political contributions from workers' paychecks."
With public support in Oregon strongly favoring a proposed November ballot initiative to stop public resources from being used to collect money for political activity, a public employee labor union -- fearful of losing its political power -- is assessing its members $60 over the course of 1998 to defeat it.
Oregon Taxpayers United is only 10,000 signatures short of the 120,000 it needs to collect by July to place the "No Taxpayer Money for Politics" initiative on the ballot. If passed, it would amend the state constitution to ensure that "no public funds shall be spent to collect or assist in the collection of political funds." This ban applies to any "public employee time, public property and public equipment and supplies" used to raise money for contributions to candidates, campaign committees, independent political expenditures and ballot initiatives. This prohibition also extends to circumstances where an entity may offer to reimburse the government for such activity.
Polling indicates that over 60% of likely voters would cast their ballots for the initiative.
To counter this overwhelming support, the Oregon Public Employees Union (OPEU) board of directors endorsed a $5-a-month special dues assessment to be collected during 1998 to raise $1.4 million to fund its "Fight Back in '98" campaign against the initiative. Other unions joining OPEU's opposition include the Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Employees Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Campaign Finance Factoids AFL-CIO Raises Member Dues to Fight Paycheck Protection
AFL-CIO leaders are planning to raise $13 million to fight "paycheck protection" ballot initiatives and legislation through a special assessment of its membership. If paycheck protection were in effect, labor unions would not be allowed to use member dues in this manner unless members first gave the union explicit permission to do so.
Business Association Endorses Paycheck Protection/California Initiative
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, has endorsed legislative efforts to enforce paycheck protection. Executive Vice President Bruce Josten said, "The U.S. Chamber strongly supports both federal and state efforts to protect workers' freedom to choose whether or not to participate in the political process. It violates basic American rights to be compelled or coerced to support causes or candidates that you oppose." In particular, the U.S. Chamber says it supports Proposition 226, an initiative on California's June ballot requiring unions and employers to obtain annual written approval from employees before using payroll deductions for state and local political activity.
AFL-CIO Asked to Help Stop Anti-Initiative Violence
Supporters of a paycheck protection ballot initiative in Nevada are asking state and national AFL-CIO leaders to use their influence to stop "goon tactics" against pro-initiative petition circulators. Dozens of people gathering signatures to put the "Workers Rights Initiative" on the November ballot report being harassed, threatened, bribed to not collect signatures and having potential signers intimidated by people who have sometimes identified themselves as labor union activists. One circulator in Reno had her car tires slashed and windshield broken. The Nevada Republican Party has videotapes of several incidents, and a dozen sworn affidavits from abused circulators.
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