Paycheck Protection against Union Deductions

Published May 1, 1998

Polls show that voters strongly support California’s Proposition 226, the “Paycheck Protection” initiative appearing on the ballot on June 2. The proposition would bar unions and employers from spending union dues and other union membership fees for political activities unless the union member has given written authorization, which must be renewed annually. Currently, a union member can keep his or her money from being used for political purposes only by resigning from the union.

Labor unions are working hard to defeat the initiative, with the AFL-CIO committing $8 million as early as February and the California Teachers Association (CTA) committing at least $4 million, including $500,000 from the National Education Association. Since the CTA’s rank and file membership supports the Paycheck Protection initiative by a two-to-one margin, some of the organization’s lobbying funds will be spent on an “internal campaign” to persuade the union’s own members to oppose Prop 226.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 1988 Beck decision that workers could not be forced to pay for union activities unrelated to collective bargaining, the Clinton administration has refused to enforce the decision, leaving unions largely free to take whatever they want from workers’ paychecks for political activities. The sums involved are huge: The Heritage Foundation estimates that unsanctioned deductions in California generate over $40 million a year for political activities.

Seventy-one percent of California voters favor Proposition 226, according to a Field poll conducted earlier this year. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll conducted last year showed that 63 percent of Americans believe that labor unions should not be allowed to use dues deductions to support political causes.