06 Feb 1998 Labor Unions Set To Grab More Member Cash for Politics; Legislation May Make This the Last Time For Many
A decision by the AFL-CIO executive council to finance a multi-million dollar campaign to influence the 1998 elections through an increase in mandatory union dues comes at a time when Congress and a majority of states are considering legislation to protect the right of employee political choice by restricting the ability of employers and unions to raid employee paychecks to fund political activity.
“The ability to assert independent political choice is an endangered right for the American worker,” said David Almasi, editor of The National Center for Public Policy Research’s Political Money Monitor newsletter. “Taking money away from hardworking men and women to pay for political projects they may know nothing about – or may not even support – is no different than sticking them up and taking their money by force.”
Union leaders announced on January 30 that a special assessment will be used to provide $15 million for political candidates and causes in 1998. AFL-CIO spending is expected to equal or even exceed the $35 million it spent in 1996 when voluntary member contributions and profits from a union credit card contract are added.
Twenty-eight states are currently considering “payroll protection” legislation or ballot initiatives that prohibit employers and labor unions from using employee wages to fund state and local political projects without the annual written consent of each employee. The most visible of these efforts, California’s “Campaign Reform Initiative” (which also prohibits foreign donations), has qualified for the state’s June ballot. Other ballot initiatives are being planned for Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Oregon. At the federal level, where Congress is expected to reconsider campaign finance reform by spring, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles of Oklahoma calls payroll protection a “basic principle of freedom” necessary in any successful reform legislation.
“Labor union leaders should not be allowed to finance their own personal political agendas out of the pockets of their membership,” said Almasi. “In a nation that prides itself on its freedom, this undemocratic practice is long overdue for reform. It is fitting that voters and legislators will be able to address this problem just as organized labor is once again dipping its fingers into worker’s wallets.”