While public school teachers, taxpayer advocates and business leaders supporting paycheck protection answered pointed questions yesterday from lawmakers, government union executives refused to attend the House Government Committee hearing. In fact, even while putting out press releases attacking supporters of paycheck protection, government union leaders refused to answer media questions about the issue.
Well, the submitted statement signed by six different government unions executives is full of claims that are misleading and dishonest. They can’t possibly answer questions on these claims, or they would be caught in their own lies.
Here are five of their most misleading claims in their written testimony, the reality, and the questions opponents should have to answer.
1) Union Leadership Claim: “Contributions to political action committees (PACs) are entirely separate from membership dues.”
Reality: PAC contributions are negotiated into contracts just like dues, collected using public payroll systems, and checks or electronic transfers sent directly to union bank accounts.
Question they want to avoid: Should public resources be used to collect union PAC funds?
2) Union Leadership Claim: “At no time can union member’s dues be given directly to a candidate for elected office.”
- While union dues cannot be directly given to candidates, they can be used for TV ads, radio ads, mailers, and other expenditures supporting candidates and ideological causes. Here is a long list of examples of political spending from union dues.
- The unions signing onto this statement—by their own reports to the U.S. Department of Labor—spent $5.5 million on “political activity and lobbying” in 2013 from union dues.
- Union dues have been given to groups running political ads targeting candidates, such as Pennsylvanians for Accountability and Americans United for Change.
- Union dues can be given to “SuperPACs” which can spend money supporting or opposing candidates so long as that spending is “independent”. (Click here for the PA Department of State ruling allowing SuperPACs in Pennsylvania).
Question they want to avoid: Should public resources be used to collect SuperPAC funds?
3) Union Leadership Claim: “automated deductions are bargained between the employer and the union” and if HB 1507 passed “all other non-profit and for-profit organizations would still be allowed to use the very same practice.”
- No other private organization collectively bargains with the government to collect political dollars. No other organization has government collect its PAC money, as union contracts do. No other organizations has government collect a charge on top of the cost of services (i.e., the “fair share fee”) that can be used for politics. No other organization can go on strike and shut down the government.
- Elected officials negotiate with local unions to collect dues and Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions via public payroll systems. This creates the potential for corruption, or at least the appearance of corruption, as union executives turn around and make campaign contributions to the very officials they negotiated with. Local government officials are even asking for paycheck protection to avoid this conflict of interest.
Question they want to avoid: Should union executives be able to negotiate the collection of political money with the politicians the support with that political money?
4) Union Leadership Claim: “Expenditures related to lobbying, political activities, and ideological activities are not chargeable to fee payers.”
- UFCW 1776 recently charged $1 million in TV ads that claimed liquor privatization would result in more DUI deaths, and $281,000 in payments to contract lobbyists to its feepayers.
- UFCW 1776, SEIU Leadership and the American Federation of Teachers charged contributions to the ideological lobbying group Keystone Research Center to their feepayers.
Question they want to avoid: Why are non-members forced to support political ads and groups?
5) Union Leadership Claim: “Claims that these electronic deductions cost taxpayers money is an assumption that is made without merit or supporting evidence.”
- There are real costs to taxpayer collection of dues and campaign contributions. It takes staff time from public employees to enter information into computer systems. Wire transfers involve a cost. Transfers require computer systems and accounting software purchased with taxpayer dollars.
- For example, officials in Blair County report that one payroll employee devotes a full day’s work every two weeks to calculating deductions for union dues.
- Not one cent of taxpayer dollars, nor any public computers or software, should be used for political fundraising.
Question they want to avoid: How much taxpayer money can be used to support politics before it’s “too much?”