Unions Dodge Poison Dart
The labor movement dodged a poison dart on Feb. 26, when the United States
Senate blocked consideration of a bill aimed at curtailing unions free speech
Big business Republicans call their legislation the "Payroll
Protection Act," but the bill would do nothing to assist union members in protecting
their paychecks from over-time repeal, trade deals or unfair taxes. Instead, the so-called
Payroll Protection Act would limit the ability of unions to inform, educate and rally
members to oppose such attacks on their take-home pay.
The bill would force unions to obtain yearly, written consent from every
member of the union before one cent in dues could be spent for "political"
purposes regardless of democratic decision-making within unions that endorsed those
The Senate bill (S 1663), proposed by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
(R., Miss.) faced a filibuster Republican proponents were ultimately unable to end. The
vote to invoke cloture on the gag bill failed 46 to 53. All 44 Democrats present and nine
Republicans voted to continue debate, which effectively blocked a vote on the bill itself.
... IT'S NOT OVER
But the battle is far from over.
Two versions of the gag bill have been introduced in the House (HR 1625/HR
2608), with votes expected in late March.
A California ballot initiative would achieve the same result on the state
level, and similar efforts are underway in 18 other states. Grover Norquist, an ally of
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, says he hopes to have ballot initiatives or state legislation
pending in at least 40 states by December in order to silence labors political
AFL-CIO Pres. John J. Sweeney characterizes the push for the gag bill as
part of a coordinated campaign by right-wing lobbying groups to "silence the voice of
working families in the legislative and political process."
Although corporate political contributions are 11 times greater than union
spending on politics, a big business coalition is promoting the gag bill on the false
claim that unions are attempting to "hijack the American political system."
Among the bills backers are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the
National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-wing think tank that promotes anti-worker
legislation like "right-to-work" bills, the TEAM Act and privatization of Social
Security and opposes raising the minimum wage.
As the UE NEWS went to press, we learned that a document supporting
the California ballot initiative signed by Gov. Pete Wilson also contained the signatures
of two union proponents, one of them identifying himself as a member of "UE Local
99." This individual and his organization are not affiliated with UE.
Local 99, a Sacramento-based organization of electricians, had been
briefly affiliated with UE in the early 1990s. However, the two organization separated by
mutual agreement some four years ago; Local 99s UE charter was revoked by action of
the General Executive Board in June 1994.
UE strongly opposes both the federal gag bill and imitations on the state