Tuesday, October 25, 2005

California Union Members: Not Deceived By Payroll Deception Campaign

California's public employees are apparently not stupid.

As you may know, Proposition 75, Payroll Protection Deception, one of the upcoming initiatives in California, would choke off the political influence of California's public employee unions by forcing them to get the written approval of each member before spending dues money on political campaigns -- even though public employees already have the option to pay only lower "agency fees" that would not go to politics.

Well surprise, surprise, the Los Angeles Times reports that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of union support for the measure.
Out of more than 1 million union members who would be affected by the measure, only 181 have publicly endorsed it.

The absence of union members within the Campaign for Paycheck Protection is striking because its advocates say that one-third to one-half of union households favor the measure.
Hmm, gosh, could that be because...
"If you look at the folks who are making the major contributions, they are all very right-wing, very conservative folks, none that I can see who have ever been in a labor union," said Lou Paulson, president of the California Firefighters Assn.

Campaign finance records show that 73% of the nearly $4.9 million raised by the proposition's advocates so far has come from nine sources, including wealthy bankers and business executives who favor private school vouchers and conservative activism; the California Republican Party; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and an association of engineers and land surveyors that is a frequent adversary of the Caltrans engineers union.
Public employee unions have been a major political force in the state, and have been winning campaigns against Governor Schwarzenegger's attempts to dismantle the state's public employee pension system, delay implementation of nurse-patient staffing ratios and delay teacher tenure and contributed to the Governator's steep drop in popularity -- which is why the business community is suddenly so interested in "protecting" the interests public employees. If only the public employees would cooperate in their own protection.

The reason more public employees aren't streaming into their campaign, according to Prop. 75 supporters is that they're intimidated by their unions. But even there, their rather unconvincing. The initiative's sponsor, anti-tax activist Lewis K. Uhler, claimed that his son, a teacher, had been intimidated out of participating in a "Yes on 75" advertisement. His son denies that intimidation has anything to do with it.

In fact, most of the public employees who seem to be publicly supporting the campaign are those who are already "fee payers" or those who are Republicans with political ambitions.

Unfortunately, Proposition 75 seems to be winning, despite the fact that business interests heavily outspend labor in political campaigns:
And while Schwarzenegger has criticized labor for spending lavishly on political campaigns and buying clout in Sacramento, business interests outspend unions considerably in California politics.

Last year, for example, business groups -- ranging from agriculture to energy companies -- spent a combined $46.6 million on candidates for statewide offices and the Legislature, according to the Montana-based Institute on Money in State Politics.

Labor spent about $12.5 million, according to the institute, which tracks political spending in all 50 states. In 2002, business contributed $117 million, compared to labor's $36 million.
California's unions, however, have a counterattack up their sleeves:
The unions are increasingly talking about a ballot proposition of their own as early as next year that would require stockholders of corporations to approve expenditures for political purposes. That would be a mirror image of this year's Proposition 75, which would require union members to annually approve of the expenditure of a portion of their dues for political campaigns. If the unions lose the Prop. 75 battle -- an increasingly likely scenario -- they may turn the tables and try to apply the same logic to corporations.
What effect that would have on corporate contributions is unclear, as corporate executives make up a major portion of corporate contributions. On the other hand, the Chamber of Commerce opposes it, so it must have some virtue.