Mark Costello, Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor
One of the major reforms adopted in Wisconsin under the leadership of Gov. Scott Walker was to get government out of the business of collecting union dues.
Oklahoma has a chance to follow Walker’s lead. This week, our state house of representatives is expected to vote on House Bill 1749, to bring “paycheck protection” to the Sooner State.
Government does not operate a dues-collection service for the Boy Scouts, let alone other civic or political interests or campaign organizations. Therefore, why should the government allow unions special political privileges and advantages that no other civic or political organization currently enjoys?
Right now, union officials use our state government as their dues collector. The benefit is more than just shifting administrative costs to taxpayers. The process makes these private organizations’ dues seem official - even mandatory. After all, the only things that are automatically taken out most employee paychecks are taxes, insurance premiums and retirement contributions.
Hiding dues among these line items is a clever way to keep union members from asking questions like,
“Am I really getting my money’s worth?”
The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state’s teachers union, has a leadership manual that shows how this works. The focus is on recruiting members by any means necessary. OEA instructs local union officials to “Be persistent: Contact the potential member in person, one-on-one, when he or she is alone....” People will usually join, OEA says, if they are “asked and asked and asked.” At the same time, there is no section in the OEA manual on retaining members. Government simply takes out the dues from a teacher’s paycheck for the rest of his or her career. Reversing the process is, as we might expect, not as easy as signing up.
The OEA is also a highly political union. Again, the group’s leadership manual puts it bluntly: “We are involved in the political arena. Education is politics.” Indeed the OEA passes on a portion of its members’ dues to the National Education Association (NEA). That group, based in Washington, D.C., espouses positions that are not just far from what most Oklahomans believe, but in some cases violates Oklahoma’s State Constitution - including strict gun control laws, bans on many common firearms, bans on nearly all homeschooling and bans on home schoolers participating in extracurricular activities at public schools.
Of course, the National Education Association has a right to freedom of speech and assembly. Both the NEA and OEA can take positions that place the unions far to the left of the vast majority of Oklahomans. What union officials should not expect is for Oklahoma taxpayers to prop them up by using state and local government as their dues collection agency.
For the benefit of taxpayers and union members alike, Oklahoma legislators should pass and the Governor should sign H.B. 1749.