Paycheck Protection Redux: Unions line up against an initiative that would end payroll deductions for politics.
For the third time since 1998, California voters face a ballot initiative that would rein in special-interest political spending in the state. Proposition 32, which will appear on the November general-election ballot, would ban unions and most corporations from making direct contributions to state and local candidates. The measure would also bar government contractors from contributing to political campaigns. The most significant provision, though—the one giving public-employee unions, especially the California Teachers Association, fits—would prohibit corporations, unions, and government employers from deducting money from workers’ paychecks to use for political purposes.
Corporations, which have other means of acquiring political money, don’t deduct nearly as much money for politics as unions do. Only about 800 companies in the United States use voluntary deductions to fund corporate PACs; most political donations come from company executives. By contrast, payroll deductions are the unions’ bread and butter. Every public-employee union in the state deducts money from members’ paychecks alongside the withholding for federal and state income taxes. Right now, the only way an employee can recoup the political portion of these dues is to “resign” from the union and ask for a rebate—an onerous process. Prop. 32 would turn the tables on union political fundraising, and so the unions have invested heavily in defeating it.
So far, Prop. 32 opponents have outraised supporters by roughly five-to-one. As of September 24, the Prop. 32 campaign had raised about $9 million, while the opposition collected $41.3 million. Nearly $17 million of that total came directly from the CTA.