Oct. 14, 2005 – Already at odds with the stateâ€™s governor, public employee unions and their allies have been taking strides to oppose a ballot measure that would require members to opt-in to political spending every year. Union leaders claim the provision is a burden designed solely to undermine workersâ€™ collective power.
Backed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the so-called "Employee Protection Act," or Proposition 75, would require both members and non-members of a public employees union to file paperwork with the state every year confirming their approval of having dues money used for political purposes. Schwarzenegger and employee unions have been battling over budget issues and workersâ€™ rights since he took office in a special election two years ago.
The initiative campaign is backed heavily by businesses and the state Republican Party. Opponents of the measure point to support from corporations and anti-union organizations as evidence that the proposition is designed as a two-part attack on workersâ€™ rights in the state.
In addition to labor unions, which make up an overwhelming majority of both the physical and financial opposition to Proposition 75, non-partisan and public-interest organizations have come out against the measure. No On 75, a labor coalition working to defeat the proposition, reported spending nearly $1.2 million on efforts to defeat the bill through the end of September. During the same time, they took in over $1.4 million, according to data filed with the California Secretary of State.
Citing a wide gap between union political spending on electoral politics and corporate largess, the League of Women Voters is encouraging members to vote "no" on the measure. Nationally, the LWV has fought similar laws on the basis that they unfairly restrict union political activity but do nothing to address corporate spending of stockholder money for political purposes.
According to state records, the Yes On Proposition 75 organization spent over $1.1 million and took in more than $900,000 in the first half of the year. The Small Business Action Committee, an organization led by long-time anti-tax activist Joel Fox and two California financiers, topped the list of most recent contributors, handing the committee over half the money collected through June. Californians for Paycheck Protection, another group supporting the measure, reported taking in nearly $1.3 million and spending just under $600,000 through September.
In California, unions collect a smaller amount of dues money from non-union members in organized government workplaces to cover the costs of representing them in negotiations, bargaining and other issues of worker-manager arbitration. Laws about "open shops" and "fair share" differ across the United States.