Little Rock The ALEC/Koch Brothers strategy to defund public worker labor unions throughout the country continues to sprout up in southern and southwestern states even while the headlines focus on the assault in the Midwest. Bills to curtail or deny payroll deductions for public worker unions have emerged front and center in a number states involving teachers and school workers or more broadly all public workers.
In Texas, bills have gone to committee with various degrees of harshness. The Texas branch of the notorious Brietbart.com far right website has been heaping praise on State Senator Joan Huffman of Houston for her bill 1968, which she and her aides call a simple modification changing nothing about the status of unions except cutting off payroll
deduction for dues, their financial lifeline. Here’s the language:
SB 1968 amends Chapter 617, Texas Government Code, to add a new Section 617.006, titled “Prohibition on Collection of Labor Organization Dues,” as follows:
Except as provided by Sections 141.008 and 155.001, Local Government Code, and Sections 403.0165 and 659.1031, Government Code, the state or a political subdivision of the state may not deduct or withhold, or contract to deduct or withhold, from an employee’s salary or wages payment of dues or membership fees to a labor organization or other similar entity, including a trade union, labor union, employees’ association, or professional organization.
Workers for the state, counties, cities, schools, you name it, would not be allowed to have payroll deductions regardless of the worker’s request, though of course just about anything else would continue to be allowed. The flannel-tongued union haters claim this is all about saving money but of course these are all automatic, computerized payroll
systems and allowing it for everyone else means the big savings involved essentially adds up to the cost of a postage stamp. One labor lawyer in Austin told me that many of the smaller school worker associations are already laying off staff. Police and fire unions in solidarity with no one said they were making sure that the amendments exempting them from these restrictions were airtight.
In Louisiana, there are two bills that would take payroll deductions away from teachers and school workers around the state. In Oklahoma, bills similar and in some cases stricter than the Texas legislation actually were defeated and put aside this session. Legislation was introduced in Missouri which would also block check-off but the outcome is still uncertain. The Arkansas legislative session ended with no action on any payroll deduction bills.
Workers and their unions could get lucky this year and duck most of these bullets, but ALEC and the Kochs are firing at will on unions with heavy artillery, so it’s just a matter of time before they hit hard with some of these measures in this new twist on anti-union attacks.