When it comes to ending the practice of government entities collecting and remitting union membership dues in Texas, often referred to as paycheck protection, unions breathlessly complain about the burden of having to do it themselves.

A hot button issue during the last two legislative sessions, union representatives often argue that collecting their dues independently is not as secure as having government entities do it for them, or that it’s too difficult for their members to have to consciously make that transaction every pay period, quarter, or year. They even accuse reform proponents of trying to “destroy” unions.

Yet, one of the biggest entities opposing the reform – the 6,000-member Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT) – makes it incredibly convenient for members to change their dues collection method online. By simply clicking a button and filling out a short form, it is so easy and secure that they are mandating it for all of their members, with the goal of a complete transition by August 2017.

“The HFT has begun the process to convert all members to ACH Bank Draft to pay union membership dues,” reads a blurb posted several months ago on the website’s homepage. “We’ve developed a safe and secure method to pay your dues through bank draft almost the same as how you pay them now through payroll deduction.”

The post goes on to say: “Are you new to the HFT? Sign up using our bank draft form now and check the box to authorize payroll deduction with HISD until we’re ready to convert.”

The one-page bank draft form is identical to most direct deposit forms used for payroll or to automatically pay bills. Simply entering your basic contact and employment information along with banking information is all you need to begin the automatic draft.

Senate Bill 13, the union dues reform legislation introduced this session, had its hearing in the Texas Senate just four months ago, and HFT Executive Vice President Andrew Dewey was there to testify against it. Dewey espoused the typical union talking points stating that the legislation unfairly targets unions, imposes a burden on both members, and the union.

Another primary argument made by reform opponents claims that having government entities collect dues is safer than the union doing it themselves. If that is the case, why is HFT putting their members at “increased risk” by transitioning to an ACH bank draft when there is currently no law requiring them to do so?

This move by HFT is important because with 6,000 members it is one of the largest teachers’ associations in the State of Texas – and Texas teachers are the primary ones passionately opposing the bill.

What HFT’s move shows is that maintaining the current process of government dues collection serves no purpose other than to ease the burden of unions collecting their own dues. That burden happens to be an essential duty of unions, and since reforming this process does not silence, destroy, or unfairly target them, unions should not receive the benefit of using tax-funded government entities to do their work.

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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