Our View: Yes on Prop. 32 – union dues
Anyone familiar with California politics knows that the most powerful forces, by far, in the state Capitol are the public-employee unions. Their clout was demonstrated this year when the California Teachers Association, the most powerful of them all, killed Senate Bill 1530, which would have made it easier to fire bad teachers for actions "that involve certain sex offenses, controlled-substance offenses or child abuse offenses."
SB 1530 was not concocted by a conservative Republican, but by state Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, a liberal Democrat. The bill advanced after several cases of teacher abuse against children came to light. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate, 33-4. Then the CTA killed it in the Assembly Education Committee.
The episode illustrates what has happened since California public-employee unions were given collective bargaining rights in the 1970s by Gov. Jerry Brown. This occurred even though such stalwart liberal private-sector union partisans as President Franklin Roosevelt had warned that public-sector unionization would lead to too much union power and the loss of public trust in the government.
Able to raise almost unlimited funds from union dues — money deducted from salaries funded by taxes — these unions run roughshod over the Legislature, especially its majority Democrats. They have stymied pension reform and education reform and have backed almost every tax increase imaginable.
Proposition 32 on the Nov. 6 ballot would reduce the unions' indirectly tax-fueled influence by prohibiting union contributions to state and local candidates. It imposes a similar donation ban on corporations, but our analysis shows that this would be a minor factor, given that business entities and wealthy owners have many other ways to influence campaigns.
Most importantly, Prop. 32 would ban automatic paycheck deductions for political purposes by unions or corporations. Again, more damage would be inflicted on unions, for whom payroll deductions are crucial for fundraising. Union members already can "opt out" of such deductions, but few choose to do so. Under Prop. 32, union members still would be able to make personal contributions to campaigns.
Prop. 32 opponents, among other things, bring up free speech, which also concerns us. And opponents pointed out that union members would not be able to "opt in" for having paycheck deductions fund union political activity.
"In the constitutional framework we live in, you can't just eliminate the speech of people," Catherine Fisksaid; she is a law professor at UC Irvine and opposes Prop. 32. "What Prop. 32 is trying to do is to eliminate one speaker from the conversation," referring to unions.
In response, businessman Mark Bucher said that Prop. 32 only limits using government's or a corporation's paycheck mechanism to deduct the money. Bucher pointed to the US Supreme Court's 2009 decision in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association. A summary of the 7-2 decision posted on the legal website oyez.org said, "(T)he court reasoned that Idaho's law did not restrict political speech, but merely declined to promote speech by prohibiting public employees from directly contributing to partisan activities from their government-issued paycheck."
We believe that the need for this reform is compelling, and that any infringements on free speech will be sorted out by the inevitable court challenges. We recommend a Yes vote on Prop. 32.