Labor unions have spent more than a billion dollars in member dues since 2010 advancing left-wing causes.
Like other individuals and organizations, unions are free to spend money engaging in the political and public policy process, with one key difference: While others give voluntarily, unions can force members to fund their advocacy regardless of whether workers support the causes.
According to new research from the Center for Union Facts, a nonprofit transparency organization, from 2010 through 2016 unions gave more than $1.1 billion to left-wing special interest groups not from the unions’ PACs — where worker contributions are voluntary in all 50 states — but from workers’ representational dues, which are mandatory in the 22 states that have not passed a right-to-work law.
Not only are these fees mandatory for millions of workers under the auspices of workplace representation, unions are not required to receive any sort of “opt in” permission from workers before sending the funds to outside advocacy organizations instead of spending them on representation.
In practice, this amounts to workers being forced to fund advocacy with which they disagree. This fact was laid bare in 2016 when 43 percent of union households voted Republican for president despite more than 90 percent of union political spending supporting Democrats, including presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The First Amendment protects Americans from compelled political speech — a common sense standard in a free society — and polling reflects that the American people believe in this basic safeguard. Polls conducted by Opinion Research Corp. show overwhelming majorities believe unions should be required to receive opt-in permission from each worker before using his or her union dues for purposes other than collective bargaining, such as political causes.
This “paycheck protection” concept is supported by 81 percent of union households, 81 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Hispanic Americans and 86 percent of independents.
And yet the status quo allows powerful unions like the AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU and others to take tens of millions of dollars from the paychecks of middle-class workers to fund groups like the Democratic Governors Association, Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters.
Regardless of what one believes about the work these groups do, it should stand to reason that no one should be forced to fund an organization they do not support. That is why it is imperative that Congress enact the Employee Rights Act.
Among other reforms, the Employee Rights Act (HR 2723 and S 1774) would require unions to receive opt-in permission from workers before spending their dues on political advocacy. This provision would in no way change unions’ right to engage in the political process, and would not touch union PACs. It would merely place unions on a level playing field with other groups that engage in advocacy — they would have to receive voluntary buy-in from individuals who wish to support their causes.
The Employee Rights Act has been cosponsored by more than 140 members of the House of Representatives, including nearly every Republican on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and better than half of the GOP’s House majority.
Every American should urge their member of Congress to cosponsor this legislation. The American people deserve to know whether their representatives in Washington stand for freedom in the workplace, or for the coercive status quo that allows well-heeled special interests to take advantage of American workers and the Employee Rights Act would provide the answer.
Akash Chougule is director of policy at Americans for Prosperity.
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