Editor’s Note: The following Op-Ed was submitted to the Beaver Countian for publication by the Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council.
Unions are the only organizations whose sole purpose is to advocate for and defend working people and their families. Whether you work in an industrial facility, on a construction site, a class room or an office, the institution of collective bargaining was conceived and implemented to raise your standard of living, not only directly for those represented by a union, but also indirectly for those not represented but whose income is benefited by the influence that unions exert on the labor market and the workers’ rights for which they fight. Over the decades since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act unions forged the American middle class, and that has been a good for working families.
Some people with a lot of money and power, though, see unions as an obstacle to them having even more money and power, and they actively seek to weaken and ultimately abolish unions. They use a number of stealth tactics to attain their goals. One of their favorite methods is to misrepresent the system and get some ethically challenged politician(s) to propose and support legislation that would weaken the voice of workers. Their strategy is to go to states that have a Governor and legislators who are willing to accept donations in return for doing their bidding. They dump in a ton of money, and they expect a return. It’s been seen across the country in states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, special interest groups funded by wealthy donors and corporations have waged an assault on workers’ rights to belong to and participate in a Union.
In the Pennsylvania House of Representative Jim Christiana is pushing House Bill 1507, a bill that would stop payroll deduction of union dues for public employees. He claims that he supports it for reasons of fairness and ethics. When one looks at Christiana’s history it becomes amusing that he would talk of ethical behavior. Christiana is among the politicians who are put into office by big donations from wealthy special interests. In April of last year the Beaver Countian ran an investigative article ( http://beavercountian.com/content/daily/representin-like-a-representative-campaign-cash-2012 ) that reported on some of these donations to Mr. Christiana and related the amazement of some local officials that someone so inexperienced as Christiana has attracted so much money from outside the state special interest groups.
Not only has he co-sponsored the bill for these out of state interest he seems to be leading the effort to mislead his own constituents on the issue. He would have us believe these deductions are costing the state scarce tax dollars and that the collected dues were given to politicians. Neither is true. Dues are deducted electronically. There is very little or no additional cost to the state to perform the function. A fact he conveniently leaves out of the conversation. As for the dues being used for political donations; it’s against the law. It has been law for many years that dues dollars cannot be contributed to political campaigns. Any money donated to candidates by Unions comes from the Union’s PAC funds. Those contributions are 100% voluntary.
Here are the facts about dues check-off: it is an agreement between unions and management that goes back several decades. It is a benefit workers bargain into their agreements to make dues payment more convenient. It’s no different than having health insurance premiums or a car payment automatically deducted. It is a stable, efficient and inexpensive system which allows the parties to focus their efforts on addressing both the competing and the mutual interests of employers and employees. It is actually a very conservative and effective approach that has produced some excellent results over the years. Asking a union to collect dues from each individual member would be no different from asking Christiana to collect his salary from each individual constituent.
Our representatives should publicize their positions on issues. They should do the best they can to inform voters on the issues. It is their responsibility to do so. Most importantly though they should inform their constituency of the facts and not some talking points that a political donor has handed them. In doing so they should at a minimum be honest.
They also should not waste the taxpayers’ money on efforts to attack law abiding organizations that will probably not stand legal challenges. In Alabama, Arizona, and Washington, these kinds bogus laws were ruled unconstitutional by state Supreme Courts. Despite the propaganda these extremist groups like to propagate, the courts have ruled such laws violate the first amendment rights of Union members.
Mr. Christiana needs to stand up for the working families in PA instead of out of state special interests.
- Rick Galiano, President Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council (BLCLC)
- Eric Hoover, Executive Vice President BLCLC
- Bernie Hall, Vice President BLCLC