Political Money Monitor
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Amy Moritz Ridenour, President
20 F Street NW, Suite 700 * Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 507-6398 * Fax (301) 498-1301
An initiative appearing on the Oregon ballot next Tuesday will determine whether or not the state government remains in the business of collecting money for the purely partisan pursuits of organized labor.
Measure 59 would prohibit public employers from automatically deducting labor union dues from employee wages if that money will be spent on political activity or commingled with other union funds used for politics. Dues collected by private sector unions would remain unaffected by the initiative.
Measure 59 still has a commanding lead in a recent poll, but a well-financed opposition campaign financed largely by labor unions has eroded support. A mid-October poll by The Oregonian and KATU-TV found 54% of voters supported Measure 59 while 38% opposed it (9% remained undecided). Support dropped from 61% in an early September poll. Organized labor has spent at least $2 million so far on television and direct mail advertising, and union officials say the total cost of the campaign against Measure 59 could eventually total over $4 million. The Oregon Public Employees Union alone raised dues $5 a month in order to raise $1.4 million explicitly to defeat the initiative.
In a replay of negative tactics used against a paycheck protection in
California earlier this year, opponents of Measure 59 are saying it will
hurt the ability of charities to raise money through payroll deductions.
Ron Nehring of Americans for Tax Reform called this allegation, which was
repudiated by the United Way last May, "just noise meant to confuse
and deceive Oregon voters."
California Governor Pete Wilson (R) signed an executive order on September 10, 1998 requiring state government agencies to inform their employees of their right to join a labor union as well as their right to reject full membership and request a refund of dues money spent on political activity.
Wilson's executive order (W-183-98) charges the California Public Employment Relations Board to promulgate new rules related to the State Employer-Employee Relations Act, Educational Employment Relations Act and Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act. Specifically, it requires that state employees be informed of their ability to join a labor union and that they can also choose not to join a labor union while still paying for the collective bargaining activities of the union through a "maintenance of membership" agreement. Employees choosing this option would also be informed that they can request an accounting of how their dues are spent and request a refund of any dues related to the agreement that are spent by the union on politics.
In June, California voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have
required labor unions to receive written permission from members before
being able to deduct money directly from their paychecks to fund political
activity. Although Proposition 226 was defeated, exit polls still indicated
that voters were overwhelmingly in favor of giving union members the freedom
to make their own political choices.
Campaign Finance Factoids
Teachers Union in California Spends Big Bucks on Politics
According to the Education Intelligence Agency, political spending by the California Teachers Association (CTA) in 1998 "will easily surpass $20 million and may go much higher." The teachers union, which the California Secretary of State's office reports spent over $1.4 million to defeat the paycheck protection Proposition 226 ballot initiative in June of this year, is currently spending over $5 million to defeat the education reform initiative Proposition 8 (supported by Republican Governor Pete Wilson) and giving over $600,000 to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis. It has also voted to spend another $3.5 million against Proposition 8 and for a school bond initiative. Next year, CTA annual dues are expected to increase by $11 to $410.
Ohio Paycheck Protection Legislation in Legal Limbo
Ohio enacted paycheck protection legislation in 1995 prohibiting public employers from deducting wages for politics, but the law has been stalled in the courts by union-initiated lawsuits ever since. Despite a federal court's unanimous ruling in August supporting the constitutionality of the law, a ruling against it by a state appeals court and the Ohio Supreme Court's refusal to hear the appeal means supporters of paycheck protection must either appeal the state's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court or wait and attempt to pass new legislation next year.
Top Union Political Gifts Almost Exclusively to Democrats
Organized labor collectively gave $5,536,881 to their top 20 prospects in the both the House and Senate over the last two years. According to Federal Election Commission reports analyzed by the National Legal and Policy Center, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was the only Republican among the 40 - receiving $76,750, or 1.4%, of union political expenditures.