Although the Supreme Court has ruled more than once in the last 20 years that workers have the right to ask for their dues not be used for political purposes, and have the dues returned if they are used that way without authorization, these rights have never been codified by Congress.
So the battle for putting workers’ rights before union bosses’ muscle has been fought largely at the state level. Known as “paycheck protection”—legislation requiring public employee unions to obtain permission from workers on an annual basis to collect dues or fees for any purpose unrelated to collective bargaining—the measures have been either offered in state legislatures or on the ballot as hotly debated statewide initiatives. By far, the most heated of all paycheck protection initiatives was California’s Proposition 226, which began with a huge lead in the polls, but after a heavily labor-lubricated counter-offensive, went down in April 1998 by a slim margin of 52% to 48% statewide.
Defeat in America’s largest state clearly wounded the fight for paycheck protection nationwide. Over the next four years, similar measures designed to protect union dues from political purposes if it’s against workers’ wishes, went down in 29 states. Only five states have adopted paycheck protection at the polls or by votes of their legislatures: Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Washington State and Wyoming.
Now, after nearly a decade of lying dormant, paycheck protection is back, and in a big way. In California, site of the biggest disappointment for the workers’ rights movement, supporters have 800,000 signatures on petitions to place on the 2012 ballot next year an amendment to the state constitution that would bar unions from transmitting the dues of government employees for political purposes.
“Essentially, it would take the rulings the Supreme Court made in the Beck  and Hudson cases , and give them the force of law in California,” said Lew Uhler, head of the National Tax Limitation Committee (NTLC), one of the driving forces behind the almost-successful 1998 initiative. Working from NTLC’s Roseville (Calif.) offices, supporters gathered the 800,000—well over the amount required for certification to be on the state ballot next year.
Uhler and other proponents told HUMAN EVENTS that a statewide survey conducted by veteran pollster Jan Lauritzen showed strong support from Golden State voters for a measure to protect the union dues of government employees from political causes and candidates.
“And this time, the money will be there to counter the unions’ campaign,” said Uhler, noting that the Lincoln Club of Orange County—a haven for Republicans unafraid of making major donations in Democratic-leaning California—has weighed in on behalf of the new paycheck protection measure. Soon, he added, “every Lincoln Club in the state will join with us.”
There has been one recent monkey wrench thrown into the cause, however. In filing their petitions, proponents had anticipated getting their initiative placed on the June ballot. But, with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown calling for any initiatives to be kept off the June ballot (when California holds its primaries), the Democratic-controlled legislature passed a bill that will result in any initiatives going on the November ballot in 2012.
“Clearly, the Democrats feel they will have a better chance of stopping us in November rather than June,” said Uhler, insisting that the delay in ballot initiatives was aimed at paycheck protection. “And Democrats here are the wholly owned subsidiary of public employee unions. And that’s one reason this is so critical, and they will fight us so hard—because this measure’s enactment will change the entire rules of the political game in California.”
For more information on Paycheck Protection, please visit Stop Special Interest Money Now.