Other Voices

Why should our government be used as a dues collector for labor unions?

Wisconsin has fought battles over public-sector unions, as has Oklahoma.
Wisconsin has fought battles over public-sector unions, as has Oklahoma. AP

Labor leaders across the state are asking Republicans to vote “no” on Proposition 3, a primary ballot initiative that calls for an end to government’s role as a dues collector for unions.

But they cannot provide a valid reason to preserve this practice.

Unions represent just 6 percent of private-sector workers in Texas, but they represent 14 percent of the state’s public-sector workers.

National unions like the Service Employees International Union rely on our state agencies to collect dues payments from their unionized employees. Then they channel the funds into campaigns against Texas businesses.

One of those campaigns is aimed at smearing my company, Professional Janitorial Services.

Other campaigns by the union are aimed at healthcare companies and restaurants in Texas, and one is even intended to “Turn Texas Blue” as part of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Texas is a right-to-work state, which means employees may choose whether they want to be part of a union. That seems fair and has nothing to do with Proposition 3.

Union leaders make lots of false claims about Proposition 3.

They claim it is “an attempt to undermine the Republican Party and its ideals.”

Really? When did the Republican Party of Texas adopt “saving labor unions” as one of its ideals?

They also pretend the effort is led by “extremist” advocacy groups when the evidence is clear that its strongest advocates are business leaders who are fed up with abuses by unions that are tolerated by our elected officials.

One business group, Keep Texas Working, found in a 2015 survey that 70 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of all voters in Texas support legislation to end government withholding of union dues from public-sector paychecks.

Even a majority of union members, 57 percent, believe the current practice creates a conflict of interest for government officials.

Union leaders also claim the practice is virtually cost-free for taxpayers, though the former president of AFSCME, one of the state’s largest public-sector unions, told a legislative committee last year the cost to taxpayers runs into the millions of dollars annually.

Which leader should we believe?

Finally, the same leaders claim the dues handed over by government are used for “equipment” and to “ensure safe working conditions,” both expenses that are already borne entirely by government.

Their real objection is that when states like Wisconsin and Oklahoma passed similar laws last year, huge majorities of union members quit paying their membership dues altogether.

The fact that only six out of 100 employees of Texas businesses join unions makes clear that unions are not popular.

The only thing keeping them alive in our public sector is the sweetheart deal they have arranged with government leaders who are opting to look the other way.

Brent Southwell is chairman of the Texas Business Coalition.