Colo. Court Says Teacher Unions Can Spend Dues on Politics without Asking

Published December 1, 2006

A state court has blocked enforcement of a rule issued by the Colorado Secretary of State requiring all membership organizations in the state to obtain permission before sending membership dues to political committees or small donor committees.

The rule was issued in mid-August to curb unions’ abuse of laws covering small donor committees, which have higher contribution limits provided they do not receive individual donations of more than $50. Using the committees, Colorado teacher unions pumped more than $1.3 million into legislative races this year–far more than other organizations.

Colorado teacher unions immediately challenged the new rule in court and won an injunction in September prohibiting its enforcement against their committees until a full trial is held. The injunction cleared the way for an immediate influx of more than $389,000 in campaign cash to union-backed candidates.

The injunction prohibits enforcement of the rule against only the teacher unions. All other small donor committees of membership organizations must comply. A membership organization is a group, such as a labor union, that requires persons to pay dues to be accepted as a member.

A new Web site by the Independence Institute,, provides links to key Secretary of State documents and encourages members to continue to find ways to hold their unions accountable. Another Independence Institute Web site chronicles the teacher unions’ reported campaign spending in 2006:


Kentucky River Cases

Ruling on a trio of cases known as the “Kentucky River” cases, the National Labor Relations Board on September 29 cleared up confusion over the definition of employees who are supervisors and cannot join a union. The ruling holds that those who assign tasks to other workers, are responsible for the performance of others, and must exercise independent judgment are supervisors.

Union officials say the ruling could affect 8 million workers in unions by having them declared to be supervisors ineligible for membership. They say they will probably appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: “NLRB Redefines Union Eligibility,”

Rise of Public-Sector Unions

Public-sector union growth is outpacing union growth in the private sector. In 24 states and the District of Columbia, public-sector union members outnumber those in the private sector.

There has been small growth in the number of private-sector union members nationwide, but as a percentage of the private workforce, union membership is declining.

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s second annual State of Labor Report discusses why public-sector workers are vulnerable to forced representation. The report also reveals how unions leverage their political influence to expand the definition of public-sector workers, represent them at the bargaining table, and force them to pay for unwanted services. Unions then use the new funds to erode worker protections further, buy more political favors, and coerce more dues.

The Empire Center for Public Policy reports public employee union membership in New York state exceeds one million. “One out of every eight New York workers is a unionized government employee,” the report notes, compared to one of 19 for the rest of the country.

In addition, the Center for Union Facts has released an interactive map showing the unionized percentage of each state’s public-sector workforce.

Sources: “State of Labor Report, 2006: The Rise of Public Sector Unions,”; “State’s Public Sector Grows to Record Level,”; “State Unionization Index,”

Public Pensions Burden Taxpayers

The collapse of San Diego’s pension fund and the massive pension shortfalls faced by New York City provide more ammunition for arguments that pension reform is necessary.

The National Center for Policy Analysis suggests problems such as these are caused when ambitious career politicians purchase short-term budget relief and political success at the expense of long-term fiscal responsibility.

Sources: “Government Workers in New York: Empire State’s Favored Class?”; “Why federal pay always outpaces private sector pay,”; “Pension Giveaway,”; “Public Pension Price Tag,”

Union Officials Could Exempt Businesses from Minimum Wage

This fall, voters across the nation are facing ballot initiatives calling for increases in the minimum wage. The measure before Nevada voters, however, has an unusual twist. It will permit union bosses to exempt employers from having to pay employees the new minimum wage.

“In short,” writes the Nevada Policy Research Institute, “the state minimum wage can be waived [for] a company that makes it ‘worthwhile’ [to] the union boss.” If it passes, the initiative will give union businesses an unfair competitive advantage and encourage unscrupulous collusion between union bosses and employers.

The Ohio-based Buckeye Institute has created a Web-based resource on the minimum wage for policymakers. Go to for more information.

Source: “The Trojan Horse Amendment,”

Paycheck Protection Laws Prove Union Model Outdated

A study by the Washington, DC-based Heritage Foundation found “paycheck protection” laws expose the contrasting priorities of union officials and union members. The study shows union officials’ political and social agendas do not match members’ concerns, and that paycheck protection laws allow members to avoid forced political speech.

Another study by The Heritage Foundation explains why unions believe they can bargain for wages, benefits, and respect better than individual workers can. They view the economy “through a 1950s lens,” the report notes, and assume “monopoly power for employers, lifetime employment for workers, and an uneducated, low-skilled labor force.”

With today’s highly educated and mobile workforce, the union model is irrelevant and oppressive, the report concludes.

Sources: “What Do Union Members Want? What Paycheck Protection Laws Show About How Well Unions Reflect Their Members’ Priorities,”; “Unions in Decline and Under Review,”

Ryan Bedford ([email protected]) is a labor analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.