PROP 75 - POLITICAL CHOICE AND FAIRNESS FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES - OPINION BY LEW UHLER
Opinion By Lewis K. Uhler (San Francisco Chronicle May 06, 2005)
Imagine this: A major California company announces to its employees that it plans to automatically deduct money from employees' salaries every month and use the funds to support candidates and ballot measures decided upon by the company's management, irrespective of the political preferences of the employees. All hell breaks loose, as it should.
This is fictional -- as to the company. But it is reality with respect to public-employee unions. This is the way they work. They automatically receive dues and fees from the paychecks of public employees and use part of the money politically, often against the choice and preference of public employees.
That's what the Paycheck Protection initiative is all about: To stop union officials from taking their members' dues and using them to support candidates and ballot measures that their members may oppose. Such action is wrong, unfair and frankly un-American. It tramples freedom of political choice of the union members.
As taxpayers, we have not only a right but a responsibility to protect our fine public employees -- firefighters, police officers, teachers and others -- from political exploitation. Consider: In the 2003 recall election, according to an Associated Press exit poll, nearly 50 percent of union members voted for the recall. But the public employees' union bosses used a portion of those members' political "dues" to oppose the recall completely. The union members had no choice. Their dues were actually used against them. This is insane. And it is a violation of taxpayers' responsibility to protect public employees.
The Paycheck Protection initiative will stop this abuse of our public employees. Those who voluntarily support their unions' political agenda will remain free to do so. Those who don't will have their freedom of choice protected.
It was three months ago that we took petitions to the people of California and asked for their support. The response was overwhelming, demonstrating that Californians are behind our public employees and want them treated fairly. Additionally, polling by Public Opinion Strategies in mid- February shows that 61 percent of self-identified union households in California support public employees' right to decide whether their union dues should be spent on political activities.
This week, more than 600,000 petition signatures are being submitted to county registrars throughout the state to place the Paycheck Protection initiative before California voters. The initiative would require public- employee unions to receive written annual consent from members before members' dues may be used for political purposes.
Further, the initiative requires public employee unions to maintain and submit to the California Fair Political Practices Commission records concerning their political contributions. The initiative does not apply to dues collected for charitable organizations, health-care insurance or other purposes benefiting the public employees.
This initiative will not prevent unions from collecting political contributions, but those contributions must be voluntary, rather than mandatory. Public employees will have a choice. Their rights will be protected. That is only fair.
Lewis K. Uhler is president of the National Tax Limitation Committee and sponsor of the Paycheck Protection initiative.
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