Everybody's Paycheck Needs Protection
Lloyd Billingsley] 10/20/05
8 special election is only 20 days away and even with occasional
media analysis California voters may have a difficult time
sorting things out. Consider claims being made about Proposition
would require public-employee unions to secure written permission
from members before using members' dues money for political
purposes. Television ads charge that the measure takes away
the unions' voice. It doesn't.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]
Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published
on topics including on popular culture, defense policy,
education reform, and many other current policy issues.
[go to Billingsley index]
Giving a Voice to California Workers: Why California Needs Paycheck
Protection, a new briefing by PRI's Lance Izumi, reminds Californians
that most union spending opposed the 2003 recall election. Yet
nearly 50 percent of union members voted for the recall. The
confiscation of their money, without their permission, for a
cause they did not support, effectively took away the political
voice of those workers.
Giving a Voice to California Workers provides helpful background,
such as the Hudson and Abood decisions. The briefing allows California
union members to have their say, tackles the tough issues, and
explores developments in states that have measures similar to
Prop 75. In those states, the briefing notes, unions have not
lost their voice nor their political clout. Indeed, the powerful
Michigan Education Association raised more money after paycheck
protection passed, all through the voluntary actions of its members.
Prop 75, which applies only to public-employee unions, would
bring such voluntarism to California. It would not take away
unions' voice nor alter other privileges unions enjoy.
In closed-shop workplaces,
unions need not compete for members and workers cannot choose
between unions. If a worker withdraws,
the union still gets her money through agency fees. Through the
Davis Bacon Act, originally used against African Americans, unions
enjoy a lock on government contracting. Complicating matters,
the union claim to represent "labor" is accepted by
the media and politicians, even though the numbers aren't there.
In the private sector, unions represent a scant 7.9 percent
of workers, down from a meager 8.2 percent in 2003. The 7.9 percent
figure is likely high because the Bureau of Labor Statistics
fails to include the self-employed, a group definitely on the
increase and non-union.
Unions represent 12.5 percent of all workers, down from 12.9
percent in 2003. Those numbers are a long way from the 1950s,
when 35 percent of workers were union members. The decline even
extends to government employees. While 36.4 percent of government
employees are unionized, that represents a drop from 37.2 in
In other words, nearly 90 percent of private-sector workers
are not in unions and nearly two thirds of government employees
are not in unions. A more pertinent question for a ballot initiative
is whether legislators should continue to reserve an array of
special privileges for a shrinking minority that represents only
12.5 percent of all workers.
Those who are union members will find their voices enhanced,
not diminished, by the requirement that union bosses ask permission
to use their money for politics. The real lesson of Prop 75 is
that nobody should get workers' money before they do, and that
has a wider application.
The practice of withholding taxes from workers' paychecks, for
example, dates from World War II and was supposed to be temporary.
It didn't turn out that way. Like union bosses, the government
likes getting workers' money before they do and doesn't want
to let go. Everybody's paycheck needs protection. CRO
2005 Pacific Research Institute