Two Views: Texas collects labor union dues used to harass employers


From 2005-15, Texas has actively collected over $49 million in dues on behalf of politically active labor unions, not including data from school districts, cities and counties.

Here’s a simple question: Why don’t labor unions collect their own dues?

Recently, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 13, authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), the State Affairs Chair, which simply states that labor unions should collect their own dues.

The bill exempts police, fire, and emergency medical services out of political reality and due to the fact that first responder unions do not use their state-collected union dues to harass employers in Texas. Companion legislation — House Bill 510 — has been filed by State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston).

It simply boggles the mind that as a “right-to-work” state, Texas continues to collect the dues of private organizations that spend money on lobbying, political activity, and complex and sustained efforts to harass private sector companies.

Auto-deducted charitable contributions from state employees are not the same thing, since those contributions to qualified nonprofits prevent spending on political activity or lobbying, a prohibition unions don’t have.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey argued otherwise in a recent column, writing that “state law already prevents payroll deductions for political purposes — the union and non-union associations collecting these dues can’t use that money for the political action committees or for other political expenses.”

But Annie Spilman of the National Federal of Independent Businesses argues: “Unions and associations cannot write PAC checks out of their membership dues revenue (collected by our state government). Donations to their PAC can only be spent on PAC expenses, but the membership dues money can be and are used to pay for their administration of the PAC, their organizing efforts and their political advocacy = lobbying. On both the state and local level, the government collects for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (ASFCME) — this is the largest arm of the public sector union AFL-CIO. If a labor union only has public sector members, they do not have to file disclosure and filings forms, which make it transparent in what they’re doing with their membership dues revenue. AFSCME only has public sector members in Texas and therefore has no disclosure requirements. ASFCME only has to file a form 990 with the IRS, which tells us nothing of their spending. So, we (the government) are collecting millions of dollars for ASFCME, and yet we have no clue how their money is being spent. We don’t know if that money is going into their PAC”

AFSCME recently announced it is funding a new initiative with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and trial lawyers in our state to influence redistricting in Texas and other states. This is lobbying.

Labor unions attack private businesses all the time – and when they do, it often becomes nasty and expensive for the employers who are forced to deal with it.

Brent Southwell, who is CEO of Professional Janitorial Services Houston, testified on Sept. 14 at Senate State Affairs that he had been “the target of a decadeslong assault by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)” and that after successfully fighting to prevent SEIU from taking over his company, his lawsuit against SEIU resulted in a $5.3 million judgment and $2.5 million in interest, totaling over $7.8 million — which SEIU still has not paid because they are claiming bankruptcy. This fight with SEIU in Houston consumed 10 years of this CEO’s time and energy.

Since labor unions have almost no requirements for disclosure and transparency with spending activities, how are union dues and their correlated spending not considered dark money?

The argument that labor unions shouldn’t have to collect their own dues is ridiculous. Virtually every utility bill in Texas is paid by automatic electronic funds transfer, check or credit card — not through state organized payroll deduction.

AFSCME has 4million members in Texas. We are supposed to believe that they cannot collect their own dues, but the National Federation of Independent Business and its 300,000 members must collect its own dues?

Texas needs to end the corrosive, unnecessary and ridiculous practice of the government collecting union dues.

Mackowiak is the president of Austin-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran, and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.



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