The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 21, 2013

Other Views: Workers entitled to know


St. Joseph News-Press

— A protracted debate in the Missouri General Assembly has produced a modest step toward improving transparency when labor unions collect and spend fees.

The issues before the Missouri House and Senate include whether unions should be required to annually obtain consent from workers before automatically deducting fees from their paychecks and whether unions should be required to annually get written consent in order to spend fees on political activities.

The two houses recently passed differing versions of bills that would attempt to make these requirements law. Neither bill would apply to all unions, as they variously create exemptions for first responders and public safety workers.

Union leaders are said to be unhappy with these measures. The average person without a dog in this fight must wonder why. Or worse, they come to a conclusion that is unfavorable.

Ensuring workers are informed at some regular interval that they are automatically contributing to a union’s treasury hardly is cause for alarm, unless for some reason you would oppose informing these workers of this.

Similarly, ensuring unions regularly obtain permission to use workers’ money to finance political activities seems reasonable, not onerous.

This latter idea is particularly true in light of federal law. The law says while unions can collect fees from nonunion workers, these workers can request a rebate of any fees used for political purposes. The bill before the legislature would let workers know beforehand.

Union boosters — heavily weighted to the Democratic side — lined up against the Senate bill, saying it was an effort to weaken organized labor. That could be one result, but whatever happened to the idea that knowledge is power?

No matter what agenda Republicans are pursuing, defenders of the unions are going to need to do better than arguing it is best if workers are not regularly asked how they want to pay their fees or if they want fees spent on political activities.

St. Joseph News-Press