SADOW: There Is No Good Argument Against Bishop’s Paycheck Protection Bill

As there is no intellectually defensible reason why labor unions should receive special privileges from taxpayers, hopefully enough legislators will come to see why paycheck protection promotes the public good over non-public greed and to act accordingly.

The bill, HB 418 by Rep. Stuart Bishop, replicates laws in many other states by simply removes a unique advantage given to unions that no other entity in Louisiana that is not a charity, financial institution with government employees as members, or government agency has: the ability to have siphoned money from employees’ paychecks directly to their own coffers, not using their resources to do so but governments’. Unions also have the unique advantage in that for school districts this is the only kind of deduction permitted under state law, and the union dues collected do not even have to go to organizations recognized as bargaining units with the local authority in question. At present, the bill appears to lack a majority in the House of Representative to move forward.

Argumentation in favor of retaining the practice typically involves heaping servings of red herrings and straw men. For state employees, payroll deduction at taxpayer expense in addition to union dues includes mandated federal or state income withholdings, credit unions, garnishments, liens, savings bonds programs, qualified United Way entities, health and life insurance products offered through the Office of Group Benefits, and products having state participating contributions, sponsored by the Office of Group Benefits, as part of a cafeteria plan.

All of these destinations differ from unions dues in different conceptual ways. Tax withholding is obvious as a legitimate use of government power. Benefit plans voluntarily chosen as a part of state employment are part of compensation. That law enforcement/judicial agencies should be able to impose wage garnishment and liens as a result of court orders serves a public purpose. Employees voluntarily join into ownership in credit unions where their status working for government makes them eligible. Savings bonds give ownership of a federal government-backed asset that funds public purposes. The United Way operates as a charity in which donors have no personal financial stake or ownership.

By contrast, having money sent to a labor union directly from a paycheck transfers funds due a private individual to a non-public organization that operates for non-public, not charitable, purposes. The amount does not become or fund an asset for the individual but instead becomes the property of the organization. Further, the money can be used to fund a purpose of pressuring government to transfer more taxpayer resources to non-charitable purposes – in fact, to the specific and discrete financial interests of those who represent the group and group members, in the hopes of enriching these. Only in the case of union dues do payers not retain the amount docked as their property, absent it being a forced payment as determined by legal obligation, or to apportion it as a charitable donation.

One could argue whether, for example, the United Way should be the one charity that may take advantage of this, or whether credit unions should get this preferential treatment among all financial institutions, but all do differ conceptually from labor unions in what they are and their purposes. Thus, an argument, for example, that to excise union dues also should mean United Way donations must go or else there’s some kind of inconsistency or political favoritism involved fails, as even if both could use the money, for example, for lobbying government, because the one is a public charity lobbying for charitable purposes while the other works for a private self-interest that does not lobby, as is part of the definition of a public charity, for a public purpose.

Nor does this mean that public sector unions would not have the legal right to exist. If they truly provide value to their members, then these individuals gladly and willingly would take a minute to fill out a single-page form authorizing by their financial institutions direct periodic withdrawals of dues from their demand deposit accounts or dues in cash, as all other organizations that charge dues not granted the favoritism currently afforded unions can do. The only difference would be taxpayer resources would not be used in securing these.

Why should taxpayer resources, small as they are, be devoted to transfer private dollars to aid a non-charitable organization with its own non-public interests that may use that money to directly benefit itself? There’s no intellectual argument that can justify this exception, and for that reason legislators oddly enthralled with allowing this special privileging for unions to continue need to come to a better understanding of what serves the public good and pass the bill.



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