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The state of Florida is apparently following Wisconsin’s lead. In what the Orlando Sentinel is characterizing as a “major blow to public employee unions,” legislators in the House passed HB1021, a bill which would ban automatic paycheck deductions for union dues and require union members to decide whether or not they want their dues to be used for political advocacy by union leaders. Democrats and labor leaders accuse Republicans of “union-busting,” while Republicans counter that they are getting the state out of “the dues deduction business” and allowing the unions to do it. Rep. Chris Dorworth, (R-Lake Mary) claims such a measure “empowers membership of labor unions.”
Which side is telling the truth? Both, sort of. But it is Democrats who are being far more disingenuous. It no secret the American labor movement, not just in Florida but every other state in the union as well, overwhelmingly supports the Democrat party. Or to be more accurate, the labor movement’s leadership does. And therein lies the crux of that disingenuousness. Both compulsory dues collection, coupled with no input from the people who pay them with respect to political preferences, gives union leaders enormous clout. Nowhere is such clout better illuminated than the unionization of the American public school system which, no matter how badly it performs, has been fantastically successful in resisting virtually any changes to the status quo.
Florida, like other states, provides the reason why. During the 2010 election cycle, The Florida Education Association (FEA), the biggest union contributor in the state, gave $3.5 million out of $4.1 million in campaign donations to Democrats. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) spent $1.4 million, again mostly on Democrats.
What percentage of campaign contributions by those unions went to each party on a national level? The website opensecrets.com provides a nationwide overview for the years 1989-2010. The National Education Association (NEA) was the eighth largest campaign contributor in the nation, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) clocked in at number thirteen. The NEA contributed 93 percent to Democrats and 6 percent to Republicans, while the AFT went 98 percent Democrat and zero percent Republican. AFSCME was the third highest campaign contributor in the nation, giving 98 percent to Democrats and one percent to the GOP.
Thus, labor leaders are being accurate when they say that ending the cycle of automatic dues collection with no input from union members as to how those dues are used politically, may not be union-busting per se, but the overall effect is the same. Yet such a contention is accompanied by an admission, even if it is made inadvertently. For decades, union leaders have asserted the labor movement’s “solidarity,” without bothering to mention that such solidarity was largely compulsory. In reality, compulsory solidarity is an oxymoron, which is why Rep. Dorworth’s contention that union membership, as opposed to leadership, will be empowered, is also accurate.
What galls union leadership even more is that the bill passed in the Florida House allows public service employees to demand a refund on any union political activity with which they disagree. Human nature being what it is, one suspects that such an arrangement might cause more than a few public service employees to suddenly “discover” that their political inclinations have never been what the union leadership assumed they were. It is unclear how far back in time such claims for refunds can go.
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