Debunking Union Leaders’ Paycheck Protection Myths

It’s been said death and taxes are life’s only two certainties. Here’s a third: government union leaders’ continual misrepresentation of paycheck protection.

For example, recently, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) falsely claimed paycheck protection bills SB 166 and SB 167 aim to prohibit public employers from deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks and prevent unions from engaging in political activities. Both assertions are patently untrue.

First, these bills allow dues collection for representational activities to continue exactly as is. The only thing restricted is the taxpayer-funded collection of dues used expressly for political purposes. In other words, government unions can continue accessing taxpayer resources to collect the bulk of their funds.

Second, under both bills, unions remain completely free to engage in political activities. Paycheck protection merely protects union workers and taxpayers from subsidizing those activities. Under both bills, unions would be required to collect their own political funds—just like every other private organization. There is no blanket ban on union political activity.

The PFT and other government union leaders claim union membership and campaign donations are voluntary. Even if we accept this as true (we shouldn’t), it misses the point: Taxpayers don’t have a choice. Because of the special political privilege given to government unions, Pennsylvanians are forced to act as the collection agency for union leaders’ political activity.

The PFT also claims using taxpayer-resources to underwrite political activities is free. This is both false and irrelevant. Paycheck protection is not about costs; it’s about the morality of mixing politics and public resources, period. Consider this: If elected officials use public resources for political ends, they go to jail.

Government union leaders have spent more than $71 million on politics since 2010, and they should be free to spend even more. But they shouldn’t be allowed to use public resources for their political work. Fortunately, 28 state senators agree, which is why the Senate sent SB 166 to the House last month.

It’s now up to the House to vote to end the immoral practice of using public resources for private, political purposes.