JEFFERSON CITY — Unions would be required to receive annual authorization from both members and nonmembers to deduct dues or fees from a public employee’s paycheck, under a bill debated in a Senate hearing Wednesday. Unions also would be required to get permission from members and nonmembers before using dues or fees to make political campaign contributions.
The bill already has passed the House by a 91-55 vote. If approved by the Senate, it goes to the governor for final approval.
Ryan Johnson testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the Missouri Century Foundation, which advances free-market initiatives. Johnson said the bill holds union executives accountable and ensures they are representing their members’ best interests.
“Paycheck protection puts the power back in the hands of our state’s public workers,” Johnson said. “These employees, not the union executives, should decide if they want to contribute a portion of their wages to the union’s political activities.”
Missouri State Council of Firefighters President Sherwood Smith took issue with the idea his organization is not accountable to its members. Smith said they are accountable in two ways, by sending surveys anonymously to members and by allowing members to withdraw from their organization at any time.
“This bill is heavy-handed,” Smith said. “We think we’re working within the guidelines of what our members want, and I truly believe that it’s not necessary.”
Otto Fajen from the Missouri National Education Association said the bill would place an unnecessary burden on school districts and potentially force them to rewrite policies.
He thinks the bill ignores the variety of purposes for which deductions are made.
“So you’re looking at all types of annuities, retirement, membership dues, voluntary associations of all types — United Way,” Fajen said. “Those types of things might be at risk if the school board and the attorney with a narrow tie says we can’t really have a defensible policy that targets the particular group or particular deduction type.”
Clark Brown spoke against the bill on behalf of the Service Employees International Union. Brown said that with the current system, members will jump in or out of the union depending on whether they agree with the union’s endorsements.
He believes this current system creates more freedom of choice.
“I want the committee to think about if we set annual authorization periods, or an annual requirement to authorize, we’ll probably create this loop where workers join the union and understand, or at least create the impression, that they’re in for the year until that authorization comes back around,” Brown said.
Brown also called the bill discriminatory and corporation-driven.
Representatives from Missouri AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police and the American Federation of Teachers also testified in opposition. A representative from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the bill.
This bill is similar to a case being decided in the U.S. Supreme Court, Janus v. AFSCME. The case deals with laws that require public employees who are not union members to pay fees. The logic behind doing so is that it eradicates “free-riders.” Nonunion members still would benefit from the bargaining and work of the union even if they are not union members and not paying for this work.