Why is the State of Texas Collecting Millions in Labor Union Dues?

You may be surprised to learn that from 2005-2015, the State of Texas (through the Comptroller’s office) has actively collected over $49 million in dues on behalf of politically active labor unions. And that does not even include data from school district, cities, and counties.

Why don’t labor unions collect their own dues?

This question is being increasingly asked by Texas legislators and is the subject of a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on Monday, Feb. 13 in the Senate Chamber in the Capitol in Austin.

Legislation in both chambers has been filed in the current biennial legislative session, with House Bill 510 filed by State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) and with Senate Bill 13 filed by Senate State Affairs chairwoman Joan Huffman (R-Houston).

It may also surprise you that there are 28 “Right to Work” states (Kentucky and Missouri just joined the list), and of those 28, just 16 states (including Texas), still partner with labor unions to collect their dues on their behalf. Other states that have prohibited the government from collecting membership from public employee paychecks for unions: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Wisconsin. These are all Right to Work states.

Currently, three of those 26 states (Florida, Texas, and Louisiana), are considering legislation that would prohibit the practice of the state government collecting union dues. Four other states (Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois), are also considering similar legislation. I have found no evidence of court challenges to state-passed legislation ending the dues collection practice ever resulting in such legislation being overturned.

In Texas, a legal opinion released by the Office of the Attorney General on may 14, 2010, found that:

“The Legislature impliedly authorizes school districts to undertake those activities that school districts would need to do in order to exercise the authority that the Legislature expressly granted them. However, the Legislature has not impliedly authorized school districts to process payroll deductions for contributions to political committees…because doing so would not be necessary to perform school districts’ expressly authorized functions.”

Summary: Collecting labor union dues is not the job of the government.

In Texas, loud opponents of these bills often attempt to purposefully confuse elected officials and voters, so let’s get some facts on the table:

  • The Texas versions of the legislation exempt police, fire and EMS.
  • The Texas versions will alter current code (Section 659 of the government code) which allows for collection of charitable contributions from the paychecks of state employees.
  • abor Unions attack private businesses all the time – and when they do, it’s not pretty.

    One businessman in Houston, Brent Southwell, who is CEO of Professional Janitorial Services Houston, testified on September 14, 2016 at Senate State Affairs that he had been “the target of a decades-long assault by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)” and that after successfully fighting to prevent SEIU from taking over his company, his lawsuit against SEIU resulted in a $5.3 million judgment and $2.5 million in interest, totaling over $7.8 million (which SEIU still has not paid because they are “claiming” bankruptcy). This fight with SEIU in Houston consumed ten years of this CEO’s time and energy.

    As Southwell also testified, “Few Texans understand how national unions plan to expand in our state. Because Texas is a right-to-work state and most Texans oppose institutions that limit their liberty, the unions start by working with friendly elected officials to gain access to our public sector employees. The unions then rely on our government agencies to collect their dues for them. Finally, the unions use the funds to pay for campaigns against private sector businesses in Texas, and to finance political candidates who will support union agendas against our businesses.”

    It is worth noting that labor unions have almost no requirements for disclosure and transparency with spending activities. Are union dues and their correlated spending not “dark money?”

    The Association of Federal, State, City, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has four million members in Texas. We are supposed to believe that they cannot collect their own dues, but the National Federal of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and its 300,000 members, must collect its own dues?

    Texas used to lead the national on economic freedom and conservative policy.

    It can again this session by ending the corrosive, unnecessary, and ridiculous practice of the government collecting union dues.

    Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran, and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. He is the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” produced in partnership with The Washington Times. His podcast may be found at washingtontimes.com/mackonpolitics.