Union Destruction Act

California's Proposition 226

Remember 1958! That’s the rallying cry of organized labor in California as it approaches a June 2 primary election that could determine the union movement’s political future, not only in California but elsewhere. Labor will focus most of its political energies on defeating Proposition 226, dubbed by proponents the "Paycheck Protection Act,"enactment of which would require that unions gain yearly permission from their members to spend members’ dues in political campaigns.
On the surface, the Paycheck Protection Act has an obvious appeal. Why shouldn’t members be able to decide whether unions can use their dues for political purposes? The reality is that the typical union member contributes about $20 a year that goes for political purposes. That amount offers an individual little in the way of political influence, but wielded collectively, these funds make organized labor a significant player in politics. In 1992, a similar measure restricting unions passed in Washington state. Since then, political contributions to state AFL-CIO unions have declined by 40 percent, and in 1994, conservatives took control of the state legislature.

California’s Proposition 226 is a model of hypocrisy. It would not require corporations to get shareholders’ permission before making corporate campaign contributions or lobbying for specific billsÑbusiness interests already outspend labor by ten to one in state races, not...

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About the Author

Peter Dreier is E. P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College. His next book, The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, will be published by Nation Books in June.