Vote No on Proposition 32: Union-busting

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing California’s propositions:

What Does Proposition 32 Do?

It kills unions.

It’s pretty simple. Proposition 32 is mainly aimed at weakening unions. It’s billed as a campaign-finance reform proposition, but it’s pretty clear that the main target is labor unions.

One facet of Proposition 32 aims to permit “voluntary employee contributions to employer-sponsored committee or union if authorized yearly, in writing.” California unions mainly depend on automatic union dues. By making those automatic union dues voluntary, this clause would greatly weaken unions. That is, of course, the point of the proposition.

Another part of the proposition prohibits funds deducted from payrolls to be used for political purposes. As it turns out, about the only organizations that use payroll-deducted funds in politics are unions. The legislative analysis states that, “Other than unions, relatively few organizations currently use payroll deductions to finance political spending in California.” Corporations don’t use them. So while Proposition 32 supporters state that both union and corporate political spending will be limited by the proposition, in reality only unions are affected.

There are reasonable-sounding parts of Proposition 32. It limits, for instance, political donations by government contractors, which seems to make sense. Although the legislative analyst notes that those government contractors could be “public sector labor unions with collective bargaining contracts.” So perhaps that clause is just another way to gut unions.

Even If You Don’t Like Unions, You Should Still Vote No on Proposition 32

Most people reading this post, I suspect, are highly in favor of unions. Still, even a person who isn’t a big fan of unions ought to vote no on this proposition.

It is true that there’s a lot to complain about with respect to unions. Unions are very powerful in California, and it’s understandable when conservatives dislike that fact. State pensions seem to have some hard-to-defend practices, for instance (which this proposition doesn’t address). In researching for this proposition, I was shocked to discover that some workers (such as teachers) have to pay union dues even if they hate their union.

But there’s a time and place to address these grievances, and that’s not the proposition system. Propositions are meant for egregious wrongs and things which can’t be fixed by the normal system. This purpose unfortunately has been subverted in recent years by the explosion of senseless propositions. Unions may be bad, or they may be good. But even if they do more harm than good, the proposition system isn’t the place to kill unions.

So even if you’re not the biggest fan of unions, like me, you should still vote against Proposition 32.

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7 Responses to Vote No on Proposition 32: Union-busting

  1. Doug K says:

    I should not be forced to give hundreds of dollars to the union for political purposes if I want basic workers rights.

  2. silver price says:

    The full implications of Proposition 32 are not known. The measure would ban donations to candidates from government contractors. The definition extends to public employee unions because they have contracts with the state.

  3. andyknaster says:

    You documented your case well, but requiring people to pay for something they are otherwise entitled to is called racketeering as defined in Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 1961–1968. The proposition does not bust the unions. It simply puts unions in the same category as any other service provider that people have a right to decide whether or not they want to use it. If the unions are providing a good service then they will have no problem getting people to pay for them. As a free-market capitalist, the last thing I want to see is legislation that does away with a legally operating business. That includes unions. However, an organization that tells a private citizen that he or she may only work after having paid the organization is not legal.

    • inoljt says:

      I think that unions are quite different from service providers and legally operating businesses…

      • andyknaster says:

        Can you explain how unions are not service providers? I believe that unions are the embodiment of service providers. A union provides services on behalf of its members. If unions aren’t service providers, then what are they? Unions provide collective bargaining services among other things. In the past, unions did great services such as getting workplaces safe and pulling kids out of the adult workplace. My problem with the unions, legal or not, is that they create barriers to jobs. In many union shops, to work in a place, you must be a member of the union. If union mermbership was optional I’d have fewer porblems with them. However, as long as somebody must pay a union for the opportunity to work, the union, in my mind, is illegal. It is in the truest sense of the word, a racket. It’s no different than protection schemes that demand a storeholder pays the mob money for the opportunity to keep his doors open.

      • inoljt says:

        Alright, let’s say you’re right. You should still vote against this proposition, because the proposition system is the wrong place to address any wrongs unions do. The proposition system is for systemic failings and egregious wrongs that can’t be fixed anyway else (e.g. the systemic failing that was the 2/3rds requirement to pass a budget, which couldn’t be fixed via normal routes). But it’s easy to fix union problems; the legislature just has to pass a right-to-work law. That’s the proper route to do that, and that’s what plenty of other states have done. Not the broken proposition system.

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