Unions oppose bill requiring yearly reauthorization for political contributions

Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:24 am

by Marie French

The way union members opt into and out of their money being used for political purposes is once again before state lawmakers.

This year’s bill, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, would require employees to agree each year, in writing, to having an automatic deduction for any political purposes. The same bill was introduced last year and the year before but never made it out of committee. Burlison said he based his legislation on the most recent version of that bill.

He said many union members are unaware of their right to opt out of having any of their dues used for political purposes.

“It’s important to protect a union member’s hard-earned salary,” Burlison said at the House Workforce Committee hearing on the proposal Wednesday, Jan. 30. “This ensures that the union is held more accountable.”

He said many union members join out of necessity but do not always agree with the political goals of the union.

The law already makes automatic contributions to political committees voluntary. Those contributions are separate from automatic deductions for union dues, which can be used for some political activity. Union representatives said members are notified each year of their right to opt out of having their dues used for any political activity and they can do it at any time.

“Every union has to notify every member annually of their right to opt out, they also have to provide the form,” said Mike Louis, the secretary-treasurer of Missouri AFL-CIO.

Reps. Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City, Karla May, D-St. Louis, and Michael Frame, D-Eureka, questioned the singling out of unions specifically in the legislation.

“There seems to be a concerted effort in this General Assembly to decimate labor unions,” Frame said.