Day 15: Preserve Government Employee Paychecks

One sign of the close relationship between government employee unions and the government officials they support is the eagerness with which states (including New Mexico) have collected union dues of government employees on behalf of the very same public employee unions that are supposed to be “adversarial” in their efforts to protect employees from the unfair demands of their bosses in government.

The fact is that public employee unions in New Mexico have trouble keeping members if governments don’t collect dues on behalf of the unions. According to Bob Williams of State Budget Solutions1:

Voters in Washington State approved a “paycheck protection” law in 1992. The law stated that employees must give annual written consent before unions could collect money for political activity. Before passage, approximately 82 percent of the members of the Washington Education Association contributed to the union’s political action committee. After the law’s first year of implementation only 11 percent of teachers contributed to the union’s political fund.

In 1997, Idaho lawmakers required political committees to get annual written consent from workers before obtaining contributions through automatic payroll deductions. According to news accounts, the number of union members contributing to union political committees dropped by 75 percent.

In Wisconsin, when Gov. Scott Walker eliminated payroll deductions for union members, the Wisconsin American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) say its membership fall from 62,818 in March 2011 to 28,745 in February 2012. 6,000 of the 17,000 members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) quit the union.

Robert Chanin, the former general counsel for the National Education Association, once said in U.S. District Court: “It is well-recognized that if you take away the mechanism of payroll deduction, you won’t collect a penny from these people, and it has nothing to do with voluntary or involuntary. I think it has to do with the nature of the beast, and the beasts who are our teachers … [They] simply don’t come up with the money regardless of the purpose.”

1Bob Williams, “Why government employee collective bargaining laws must be reformed now,” State Budget Solutions, June 5, 2012,

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3 Replies to “Day 15: Preserve Government Employee Paychecks”

  1. You keep mixing apples and organges here in this column and it is very misleading. By both federal and state law the Union Dues and the Polictical Action Committee contributions must be separate, and that is what New Mexico does. But in your piece you mix the two.

    Why would you deny the convienence of automatic payroill deduction to employees or in fact the employer who pays with one electronic transfer instead of like 80 paper checks like they use to? When I first started in State Government in late 70’s there was a union office in the PERA building for social workers and every two weeks they had to run to the office and pay their dues. This was a drain on productivity.

    I know the underlying theme is: Unions are bad and the plan of the Billionaire Koch brothers through Gov. Scott Walker is good…but let’s try to have a factual discussion.

  2. Sure, but employees should have to choose whether or not they want the withdraws made for union dues. Money shouldn’t be automatically deducted.

  3. William: do you have some reference to the “plan of the Billionaire Koch brothers”? I’d like to see this for myself. Thanks!

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