The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 26, 2000

Whether you know it or not, GOP feels you need 'empowerment'

By The Building Tradesman

There's a new name for "Paycheck Protection."

It's called the "Worker Information and Empowerment Act," and its sponsor wants to "make it easier for workers to determine if they want to continue subsidizing the union's non-bargaining related activities or whether they want to seek a refund."

The sponsor is U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky), who said the legislation would give union workers more information about the "ideological and political causes" that their unions support, according to the Construction Labor Report. The legislation would require annual reporting to members about the use of their dues.

Actually, this proposal is not particularly oppressive, and probably wouldn't raise any eyebrows if it were done outside of today's anti-union climate.

McConnell's proposal is part of a growing trend of state and federal legislation outwardly designed to better inform union members about their "rights," but union leaders charge that Republicans are much less interested in supporting the interests of union members than they are in putting a crimp in the way unions spend money on politics.

That's what "Paycheck Protection," - or as unions called it, "Paycheck Deception" - is all about. So far it has failed to be adopted in Lansing or in Washington. The legislation would require annual written authorization by union members for the expenditure of dues money on anything other than collective bargaining, including organizing, member communication, lobbying and charitable contributions.

Unions are already run like a democracy, with freedom of speech at union meetings and constitutionally required voting of union officers and changes in union bylaws. If members don't like how their dues money is being spent, they already have the right to openly comment on the matter, or to vote for union officers who share their views.

If a union member still doesn't like what's going on, he or she has the right to leave the union.

"Membership in a union is completely voluntary," AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Laurence Gold told the CLR. "There is no such thing as that oft-repeated canard, 'compulsory unionism.' "

Republicans never seem to want to place these types of impositions on corporations, requiring stockholders to sign off on every expenditure of a corporation that's not related to running the company.