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Sen. Susan Wagle: Paycheck protections needed

  • Published Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Although Kansas already gives workers the choice of whether or not to join a union, worker freedom could expand further with the adoption of paycheck-protection policies.

In Kansas, union-represented public employees can choose to have a portion of their salary automatically deducted and contributed to their employee organization’s political action committee. Public employees, then, have little say in how these funds are distributed to political candidates and causes.

Without paycheck-protection laws, unions often spend a portion of collected dues on political issues that their members do not support. For example, when Utah – a right-to-work state where union members choose whether or not to join a union – enacted paycheck-protection laws, one public-employee organization saw the amount of contributed political funds drop by 75 percent. In this case, the union’s political spending was clearly not in line with the principles of its members. According to a December 2012 study conducted by the James Madison Institute, similar results occurred when Idaho and Washington state adopted paycheck protection.

Some have claimed that without automatic deductions, employees will not support a union’s political activities. However, if an employee organization accurately represents its members’ political interests in a meaningful and effective manner, and members see a return on their investment, those members will continue to donate.

Paycheck protection is a popular reform with broad public support. According to a 2011 poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International, an overwhelming majority (79 percent) of union households support choice when it comes to how their money is used in politics. If individuals have the right to choose whether or not to give to a candidate or cause, shouldn’t they also have a say in how their union contributions are directed?

State Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, is president of the Kansas Senate.

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