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Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 8, 1998 / 12 Nissan, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign

OPPOSING CALIFORNIA'S PROPOSITION 226 will be a hard sell for unions. Big labor must persuade the rank and file that they are too dumb to decide for themselves whether or not to support the political causes for which John Sweeney and Co. currently pick their pockets.

The initiative on the June ballot, dubbed the Paycheck Protection Bill, would require unions to get prior written permission from members, annually, before using their dues for politics.

Not only is the initiative popular with voters, but an internal poll by the California Teachers Association shows 70 percent of its members backing the ballot measure.

Labor needs this like the second coming of Taft-Hartley. Union task master

Estimates vary on just how much of compulsory dues are spent on candidates and issues. On campaigns alone, labor probably shells out $370 million in each election cycle.

Almost every penny goes to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. (Business divides its spending about evenly between the parties.) While 40 percent of union households regularly vote Republican, in California, 97 percent of union money goes to the party of Clinton.

Organized labor and the Democratic Party have undergone a Vulcan mind-meld. Unions are the party's major source of funding. Federal Election Commission records show that union PACs provided 47.6 percent of all contributions to Democratic congressional candidates in 1996, up from 33.9 percent in 1992.

On the economic front, labor pushes higher taxes, minimum-wage hikes and government control of health care. It opposes the balanced-budget amendment, Social Security reform, term limitation and choice in education.

But unions are equally doctrinaire on social issues. Every item of the left agenda, from abortion rights to racial quotas, comes with the AFL-CIO seal of approval.

The United Auto Workers has lobbied against legislation to make English our official language. AFL-CIO affiliates have contributed thousands of dollars to Emily's List and other pro-abortion PACs.

In 1993, the California Teachers Association donated $10,000 to defeat a three-strikes-and-your-out initiative. Just imagine the CTA going to individual members and trying to convince them that locking up career criminals for life is bad for them.

Knowing what's at stake, unions are expected to spend between $20 million and $30 million to defeat Proposition 226.

Washington state passed a similar initiative in 1992. PAC spending by the local affiliate of the National Education Association fell from $576,000 the year before the initiative went into effect to $132,000 in the next election.

Members won't voluntarily fund causes and candidates they don't believe in. Like dictators everywhere, union bosses must ultimately resort to the mailed fist. They are slightly more sophisticated than their counterparts in China and Cuba. Instead of a gun in the back to force compliance, they use funds forcibly extracted from their subjects.

To make a credible case against 226, they must engage in Orwellian tactics. Their general advertising won't even mention the word "union," which has negative connotations for the average voter. Instead, they will hyperventilate about corporate influence over the electoral process and 226 being supported by out-of-state interests.

To their own members, unions will say: "Look, idiots, Prop. 226 is being driven by the radical right. These guys hate unions. The want to silence workers. Once we can no longer spend your money (without your consent) to fight them, they'll push through all sorts of awful stuff."

The California Teachers Association gets down to the nitty-gritty. Tuition tax credits and education vouchers will follow on the heels of a 226 win, CTA officials warn. In 1993, the union spent $15 million to bury a school-choice question.

"Democracy is at stake," cautions the NEA's Lee Berg. "When education is not public, (when families aren't dragooned into state schools) we no longer have the ability to control what is taught." Control, coercion -- that's all organized labor understands.

The CTA is saying: If workers are given a choice of whether or not to finance union politics, parents soon may be able to choose their children's schools. Choice begets choice. How awful.

For those with a sense of the ironic, who savor campaign ads that attempt to reshape reality, the union effort against Proposition 226 should be fun to watch. decades.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.