Texas’ public sector unions have long fought to protect their ability to have government entities collect and remit their member’s union dues, but State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) has filed a bill to end that practice.

While Texas is a right to work state, public sector unions have benefited immensely by using taxpayer resources to facilitate dues collections. While the cost may be negligible, that doesn’t negate the fact that unions have been getting special treatment by not having to perform their own transactions.

Ending this practice has gained a lot of support since the last legislative session.

Republican primary voters showed their support by overwhelmingly passing a ballot proposition opposing the practice.

And in May, delegates to the state’s republican convention submitted and passed a “Right to Work” plank aimed at ending this practice. The plank, which passed with 96 percent of delegates voting in favor, explicitly calls for Texas to prohibit governmental entities from collecting dues for labor unions.

Those in support of the practice claim that removing government entities from the equation is somehow silencing the unions. Neither of the proposed bills, or any of the bill’s supporters, are calling for action against unions, they simply do not want their taxpayer resources involved.

Having government involved in this process inherently presents a potential conflict of interest. Regular contract negotiations leave unions negotiating with the same people who are collecting their funds and, in turn, are receiving union support.

Both bills aimed at ending the collusion, Senate Bill 13 and House Bill 510, exempt “covered employees” or police, fire, and other emergency service workers. However, the bills do not affect the ability of an entity to withhold salary or wages to be used as donations to an approved charity.

Following Huffman’s bill filing, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who asked the senate to study the issue during the interim, released a statement saying,

It is clearly not the role of government to collect union dues, and certainly not at taxpayer expense. I commend Sen. Huffman for filing SB 13 – one of my top priorities, which will ensure taxpayer funds are not used to support the collection of union dues. This legislation places government in its appropriate neutral position and lets unions collect their own membership dues.

Texans have sent a clear mandate that they want government collusion with unions to come to an end, but will the legislature finally follow through?

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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