If you or a family member belong to a union, you might not know that the dues deducted from your hard-earned paycheck are funding causes you oppose or supporting groups with views exactly opposite of yours. Even if you do know it, is there anything you can do to stop it? Two recent Supreme Court decisions show that there might be some hope in controlling unions’ out-of-control power grabs.
On June 30, in Harris v. Quinn, the court ruled against Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the country’s most powerful unions. SEIU had convinced the state of Illinois that people who cared for disabled family members in their homes should be classified as “public-sector workers” because they received assistance from the government. They were required to join SEIU and union dues were automatically deducted from their benefit checks. The suit was brought by Pamela Harris, whose 25-year-old disabled son had $90 deducted from each monthly Medicaid check for union dues. This is shameful! Money that could have gone to helping this family care for their son and make their lives a little easier instead went into the coffers of SEIU. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the 26,000 home healthcare workers in Illinois, and people in similar situations in other states, should now be able to sue for a refund of the union dues they were wrongfully compelled to pay.
Because of this ruling, the next day the court requested a lower court to reconsider its actions in a similar case affecting daycare workers in Michigan. The Michigan scheme, which ran from 2006 to 2011, involved nearly 40,000 daycare providers who charged reduced fees to low-income families. Although less than 15 percent had voted to join the union, the state gave the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees the monopoly right to represent them and collect dues. They had $4 million in dues deducted from state subsidy checks for membership in a union they didn’t need or want. Now these workers have a chance to sue to get their hard-earned money back.
Think union abuse only happens in other states? Right here in Nevada, the Nevada State Education Association (state teacher union) takes several hundred dollars each year from the salaries of our schoolteachers, supposedly to fight for their rights, lobby for increased salary and benefits, etc. But they’re actually using it to pad the pockets of high-paid union officials and also to fund political and social causes that teachers might not want to support. For example, in the first half of 2014, the union gave $50,000 to ProgressNow Nevada, which supports legalizing same-sex marriage in Nevada, and another $50,000 to Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), whose member organizations include several pro-abortion groups.
The teacher union has also donated more than $1.8 million in cash and in-kind contributions since 2012 to support the margin tax initiative, which would kill the progress Nevada businesses have made since the recession. Why? Although it’s being promoted as the “Education Initiative,” there’s no requirement that the money extorted from Nevada businesses must be used in the classroom. It could be used instead for higher salaries for administrators or to create more layers of bureaucracy. In addition, Nevada has a history of reducing school funding from the general account when additional funds become available from other sources. Although Nevada teachers aren’t required to join the union, once they do join, they have no control over where their dues money goes, and they can opt out of union membership only during one two-week period each July.
If you or someone you know belongs to a union, now’s the time to ask where your dues are going and what causes your money is supporting. Find out if you can opt out of union membership or get a refund of dues you’ve already paid. Money is power, and unions already have too much of both.
By Whose Authority?
For more information on my Commentary and to see some of the backup research, or if you wonder why I take the position I take, go to www.LyleBrennan.com.