Interim Proposal to Limit Public Sector Union Dues Sparks Outrage

AFL-CIO logo

A proposal by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to have an interim State Senate committee examine whether to continue the practice of allowing teachers and other state employees to continue to have their union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks has sparked anger among Democrats and union leaders, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Between sessions, the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House appoint ‘interim committees’ which study key issues and bring recommendations for new bills to the floor of the Legislature in the coming session.  One of Patricks’ ‘charges,’ is ‘Examine the practice of using public funds and employees for the payment processing of union dues.’

“Public employees have the right to spend their paychecks however they see fit,” said State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio).  “The deductions process is automated and the cost minimal.  Thousands of state employees use payroll deduction for a variety of reasons including to make automatic contributions to charitable organizations and union dues.  It is a personal, family decision that the government doers not need to micromanage.”

The issue of public employee unions is seen as a winner for conservative Republicans and their political base, many of whom see the unions as thinly disguised fronts for Democrat politics and fundraising.  A fight against unionization of state employees led Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to national prominence.

“It is a shame that with many unfilled needs in Texas, including public school underfunding, health coverage gap and economic instability, a key Texas Senate committee is going to do the bidding of dark-money special interests by reconsidering a massively flawed bill that would limit the freedom of association of firefighters, police, teachers, nurses, and others who devote their lives to serving the public,” said John Patrick, the President of the Texas AFL-CIO.

A bill to bar the automatic withdrawal of public union dues passed the State Senate earlier this year but died in the House.

Supporters say state employees and computers should not be used to advance the payment of dues to private unions.  They stress that they are not prohibiting public sector workers from paying union dues, which could still be paid by writing checks.  Opponents like Menendez say the process is automated and the measure is a smoke screen for weakening public employee unions in Texas.