Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Business, labor clash over bill aimed at restricting union politicking

January 23, 2013, 5:30 p.m. Updated January 24, 2013, 7:57 p.m.


— Business interests on Wednesday called for the eradication of public employee unions as they pushed for passage of a bill that unions said would limit their ability to participate in politics.

“I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions,” Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee.

But representatives of the Kansas National Education Association and other employee groups said their ability to collect funds on a voluntary basis to participate in the political process was a constitutional right.

“Denying teachers the right to payroll deduction is simply not fair,” said Anna Moon Bradley, a teacher in the Marais des Cygnes school district. “It denies us the freedom to chose how our paychecks are spent, and frankly, ultimately denies us our freedom of speech.”

Former state Rep. Ann Mah, a Democrat from Topeka, said the bill illustrated the clash between political action committees funded by the billionaire Koch brothers of Wichita and those funded by union members.

“I encourage you to just say ‘No’ to corporate special interests and stand up for the people instead,” she said.

The committee will work on the bill and possibly vote on it Thursday.

Testimony on the measure indicated it was primarily aimed at the KNEA and Kansas Organization of State Employees, but Committee Chairman Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, said it would apply to all public employee unions.

Under House Bill 2023, professional employee organizations would be prohibited from collecting funds from an employee’s paycheck and use of those funds for political purposes, such as donating to candidates, or working for the passage of a bond issue. Public employee organizations would be prohibited from endorsing candidates.

Union members argued they donate these funds voluntarily, but state Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, and other supporters of the bill said teachers are sometimes coerced into paying.

Smith said when he became a teacher there was pressure put on new hires to join the KNEA.

“It’s just an insidious way to get money from someone,” he said.

But opponents of the bill said no one twists anyone’s arm to join KNEA.

“It just doesn’t happen,” said David Schauner, general counsel for the KNEA.

He said the impetus for the bill was to silence the voice of teachers in the political arena, especially now that legislative leaders and Gov. Sam Brownback have called for measures to thwart a court order for more school funding. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel said the Legislature failed its constitutional duty to adequately fund schools and ordered a $440 million increase.

The KNEA is often at odds with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. The Kansas Chamber was instrumental in the last election in switching the Senate from moderate control to conservative control.

“When those in power decide to punish those who have publicly disagreed, then we are lost as a democracy,” Schauner said.

But business interests said businesses resent that people paid with tax dollars can pool their monies to try to elect candidates they favor.

Stafford said that union leaders protected their self interests instead of the interests of the union members. But Mike Marvin, executive director of KOSE, said the public employee unions “are the epitome of democracy.”

Marvin said union members elect leaders, who decide where political action funds go.

Stafford cited instances of what he said were excessive salaries and benefits of state employees from other areas of the country, but Marvin said that wasn’t the case in Kansas.

“We can’t hire people to work at our state hospitals because the wages are so low. People are working 16-hour shifts, three or four days a week to cover,” Marvin said.


parrothead8 5 years, 5 months ago

Corporations are people, but unions aren't?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't know enough about the law, but why couldn't they just incorporate? Maybe for tax reasons? Just guessing.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Why should not knowing anything about the topic stop you from opining on it? I'm sure you can just fake it by telling us some tall tale about something you heard happened in California. Oops. Too late.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Should I ever tell a "tall tale", I will clearly label it as such. Should I choose to opine, I will label that as such. And if I should ever just take a guess, I will do so after labeling it as such. All those are permitted in this forum, I assume.

I just made an assumption.

Perhaps you should follow suit by labeling your snarky responses as being snarky.

That was snarky.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Haha. More than once you've told us some yarn about something you've heard only to have links to news articles contradict you. Your memory doesn't serve you as well as you think it does. Might do you some good to go verify some sources before insisting on your awesome anecdotal authority.

Note - I'm not accusing you of lying. I'm accusing you of sloppy reporting. Also a lot of hasty generalizations.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

More than once I've made mistakes. And more than once I've admitted to them. I will make more. I will admit to my mistakes some more.

Was that your intention when you chose to respond to my guess? Or was it your intention to just be snarky? As I admit to my mistakes, perhaps you could follow suit and admit to your snarkiness. (My questions are rhetorical, as I could care less what your answers are or if should answer at all).

Good evening, chootspa. (sarcasm).

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

My intent was to snark on your frequent and hyperbolic San Francisco-based anecdotes, no matter how tangental to the topic they may be, in the hope that self awareness will create a gap between impulse and action.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 5 months ago

Corporations are people who want to bring back slavery. Unions will soon be known as Chattel, along with the rest of us.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

Unions ARE corporations. Yet another bit of evidence as to the hypocrisy of the right-wingnuts who push this sort of ridiculous legislation.

streetman 5 years, 5 months ago

Corporations, unlike unions, do not coerce their employees to join a group or contribute money to a political cause. Unions insisting on it through payroll reduction is really galling! I've been on both sides of the fence and prefer voluntary. It's called freedom.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Evidence of coercion?

According to the article, these deductions are voluntary.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

Joining a union and, if a member, contributing to the union PAC are 100% voluntary. Anyone who says otherwise is LYING in order to justify this ridiculous and unconstitutional piece of legislation.

Do you own stock, Mr. streetman? When was the last time any for-profit corporation asked your permission, as a stockholder, to use your money for political purposes?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Owning stock is a voluntary endeavor. One assumes when purchasing said stock that they are voluntarily choosing to endorse the activities of that company.

Owning say, Wal-Mart means you are agreeing with their business practices, including their political activity, wages they pay their employees, their purchases of foreign goods and under what conditions those people work. Of course, shopping at Wal-Mart means you are endorsing the very same things.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

"Owning stock is a voluntary endeavor."

Yep, just like JOINING A UNION is a voluntary endeavor. You either aren't paying attention, or you're just selectively ignoring facts in order to justify an unjustifiable position.

Which is it?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

I never said joining a union wasn't voluntary. It is. As is being owner of stock.

You seemed to be implying that companies ought to seek the input of shareholders when they make political decisions. That's backward. It's the shareholder who has the obligation to make himself aware of the company's political dealings and then decide, voluntarily, if they wish to purchase stock in that company. Should the shareholder disagree with the political decisions, they could either exert pressure on management, sell their holdings, or live the decisions management makes. The choice is always theirs to make. Or they could simply live in ignorance, paying no attention at all to what political activity management engages in, looking only at profits and losses. That too, is a choice.

Union members live with the same set of constraints. They too, are endorsing the political activity of their unions when the choose to join. The only difference, is that should I choose to sell shares in a company, I do so by clicking a mouse pad and then purchase some other company. Ending your relationship with a union might in some situations cause you to end your employment as well, (not often, but not never as well).

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

"Ending your relationship with a union might in some situations cause you to end your employment as well, (not often, but not never as well)."

That statement is absolutely 100% FALSE in the state of Kansas (which, fyi, is where this legislation is being proposed).

You have either been mislead, or you are trying to mislead. Which is it?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

In order to eliminate the possibility for misunderstandings, perhaps it would be best if you set exact parameters as to exactly what may be discussed and what cannot be discussed in this, your forum. Please be specific, as I don't wish to cross any barriers you set in this, your forum.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

jhawkinsf, you are free to post whatever you want. If you choose, as you have, to post misinformation and/or outright lies; I am free to call you on it - as I have.

I see you've chosen to respond with irrelevant borborygmic bloviations rather than answer my direct questions. I would ask them again, if I thought for a moment you would provide a substantive response.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Those were not direct questions. They were statements that ended with a question mark. To suggest that they were "real" questions is a deception.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

They are real questions and you still have not answered them.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Which is it? - Neither.

Which is it? - Neither.

streetman 5 years, 5 months ago

You ever live in the real world? Joining a union is not voluntary. Contributing to a voluntary union PAC (outside of required union dues) can hardly be considered "voluntary" when everyone knows who dared not contribute -- there will be various degrees of "disapproval" expressed for not "volunteering." And yes -- I own some stock. I vote on board members, and like any elected officials, I do not agree with everything they do on my behalf. If I disagree enough, I wouldn't own the stock. That IS voluntary.

seriouscat 5 years, 5 months ago

wrong wrong wrong...many states are now allowing corporations to divert payroll tax money back into the corporations....they are not required to ask permission or even to tell the employees that their payroll taxes are being diverted back into the company instead of to the state to pay for services. Maybe the real world ain't what you think it is?

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

streetman, your lies never cease do they?

Joining a union in the state of Kansas (where this legislation is being proposed) is 100% voluntary; as is contributing to the union PAC. Furthermore, the union members VOTE on the union leadership; just as you vote on corporate board members. Your entire argument is worthless.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Joining a union isn't 100% voluntary in closed shop situations, in which all new employees at a workplace are required to join the union as a condition of employment.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

There are some cities in America, I'll let you guess which one in particular that I'm referring to, that has decided that for all city contracts, only union shops will be hired. This is particularly true for those in the building trades (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.). That same city then makes the decision that they will not crack down on illegal immigrants who work as day laborers in those same occupations. If you are a carpenter, plumber, electrician in such a city, but one who chooses not to be a member of a union, for all practical purposes, you've removed yourself from the labor market.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Actually, you're not required to join the union, and you can't be forced to join a union. You're just required to pay the union for negotiating your contract as part of your employment, so you might as well join the union and have a vote. Not much of a difference, but there it is. And that applies only in non right-to-work states, which Kansas is not. Increasingly, it applies to fewer and fewer jobs. Union membership is now lower than it's been since the 1930s.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of places where the company pretty much forces you to not join the union and will fire you the second it suspects you might be organizing.

While this discussion of labor policy in other states is interesting, it's irrelevant. It doesn't apply to Kansas. This law would nor remedy some great evil coerced union membership problem. It's a giant present wrapped up in a bow for ALEC, the Kochs, and the Chamber of Commerce, all of whom are free to keep spewing their political opinions for their own personal benefit while muzzling the opposing viewpoints.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Remember, the progressive politics of any particular city doesn't exist in a vacuum. They must live in the state in which they reside and in the country as a whole. So too, with Kansas businesses and unions. Decisions made here may have the consequences of businesses moving here or moving away. It might mean wages going up or going down. It might cause an influx of skilled workers or an exodus of them.

Knowing what those other states have done and what the results of those actions is something that we should be trying to understand.

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Now you're just grasping at straws. Businesses aren't going to move here or move away based on whether or not the teacher's union is allowed to endorse candidates. Do they do so based on whether or not it's a right to work state? Probably, they do, but it's irrelevant to this particular bill. And it certainly didn't make a lick of difference to Boeing, now did it?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

I have no idea why Boeing decided to leave Kansas. Perhaps you could provide a link from whomever at Boeing makes those decisions with their explanation. Then I will know.

Or you can give me your thoughts on the matter. Then I could decide for myself if your argument has validity.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 5 months ago

Think of all the people who are now coerced to shop at Wal-Mart and Target - two vehemently anti-union businesses who routinely find reasons to fire workers who attempt to unionize. Do we really have a choice not to shop at these stores despite disagreeing with all of their political views? Do we have the power to stop them from contributing vast sums of money to GOP campaigns? And it is these people now telling us that teacher unions are bad and they shouldn't fund political causes or candidates?

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

Wanna bet? Plenty of corporations pressure their employees to support specific candidates. Oh, lookee - the Kochs:

Robert Sailler 5 years, 5 months ago

Teachers have the option to withhold the money that goes to the NEA PAC.

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

"But business interests said businesses resent that people paid with tax dollars can pool their monies to try to elect candidates they favor."

Since when did your paycheck belong to your employer? People paid with tax dollars earned that money and should be able to use it as they see fit as everyone else who collect a paycheck does. It is their money.

I resent businesses who use the public coffers as a way to avoid paying their employees a decent wage and providing decent benefits. Looking at you, Walmart.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Ahhhh yes The Chamber of Commerce has spoken at the direction of ALEC. You bet nothing like having the Chamber of Commerce a PAC for right wing thinkers DICTATING to political groups.

It's time top force the Chamber of Commerce out of business for Commerce is the last thing on their minds.

Bob Forer 5 years, 5 months ago

You can never give the wealthy enough. They always want more.

streetman 5 years, 5 months ago

A nice sounding platitude, but I smell hypocrisy. What's your definition of "wealthy?" You are no doubt very wealthy relative to most people in the world -- maybe even the US. Did you turn down your last pay raise because you "have enough?"

question4u 5 years, 5 months ago

"'I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions,' Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee."

Business owners in Kansas will already be getting a free ride on state income taxes while workers pay the tab. Home owners will soon lose their tax deductions and pay higher property taxes so that business owners can pay no income tax. Consumers will pay a higher sales tax so that business owners can pay no income tax. Now this bloated sack of self-interest wants to pull the puppet strings to undermine education, all so business owners can pay no taxes.

There was a time when Kansans would have run someone like Stafford out in a rail. The idea of a corporate spokesman telling the Legislature what he wants them to do for him would have raised the ire of Kansans and affronted their sense of justice.

Today, Kansas government has become rotten to the core and Kansans have only themselves to blame.

seriouscat 5 years, 5 months ago

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and supporters are the epitome of greedy selfish hypocrisy. "It's just an insidious way to get money from someone" says Smith.... Yet we don't here him complaining (or any of the Kansas media covering) about Chinese owned AMC theaters diverting their employee's payroll taxes (a fact that AMC isn't even required to divulge to said employees) back into their corporate coffers? (A move which diverted 4.8 millions dollars out of Kansas tax revenue away from services for Kansas residents)


"AMC Entertainment announced a deal last year to move its corporate headquarters from Kansas City, Mo., to a nearby Kansas suburb. In return, Kansas will let the multiplex chain keep $47 million of state income taxes withheld from its workers’ paychecks, a drain on public finances that did not create any jobs, but does enrich the Wall Street firms that own AMC including arms of J. P. Morgan, Apollo Management, Bain Capital and the Carlyle Group.

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 5 months ago

The first sentence of this article stated that "business interests" are calling for this. Is the Kansas chamber of commerce really an organization dedicated to promoting BUSINESS interests? I don't think so regardless of how they are organized under IRS rules. They endorse candidates and oppose others. Public sector union issues have nothing to do with "business interests." The IRS should strip them of the tax exempt status.

Stuart Sweeney 5 years, 5 months ago

A union is an association of the working men and women, the Chamber of Commerce is and association of business persons, maybe we should enact legislation to shut their fat mouths as well.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

You are wrong, and probably haven't stepped into a school since you sat in your desk doing nothing. Bad teachers can be gotten rid of. In fact, a union rep will help guide administrators through the process that is necessary to get rid of a bad teacher. But they have to go through the process. Good teachers have to be protected from a vindictive school board member whose dead beat son flunked.

Determined 5 years, 4 months ago

It is possible to get rid of a teacher, but it is a long and drawn out process. It's hurts the students and the morale of the other teachers who truly want to work and be there.

voevoda 5 years, 5 months ago

'"I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions," Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee.'

Stafford just declared class war. Not to mention an assault on the civil rights of public employees.

JW1943 5 years, 5 months ago

People easily forget that members of labor unions back in the '20's & 30's literally gave their lives so most people now enjoy a 40 hour work week, overtime pay, vacation days, sick leave days, health insurance, & retirement pensions. Does anyone really think that businesses gave these benefits to workers just because they were "nice guys?" Each time the Koch brothers buy another governor or congressman they are one step closer to repealing all these benefits. People take these benefits for granted. Kansans better wake up and smell the coffee or all those benefits that most Kansans enjoy, and take for granted, will be as gone as the dinosaurs ! Kansans better think about this. ..... this is the first step by the Koch brothers and their bought and paid for thugs to repeal all these benefits that Americans DIED for. ..... are you ready to die to get them back again once these benefits are gone? They did it in Wisconsin and now they're doing it here !! Kansans better start paying attention .... is this really what the majority voted for? Think about your kids and grandkids.

oldexbeat 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh, boy -- the Koch Brothers Front -= the Kansas Chamber of Commerce -- sez "I NEED, I WANT, GIVE ME, I'm A Corporation.... OH Boy..." and the Kansas Legislature jump and how far up do they jump ? What they are told to do.

Boycott members of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce: Here's some -- Lawrence Paper Co., Cox Cable; AT&T; State Farm Insurance; Black Hills, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Hy-Vee and Frito Lay. Just saying -- pressure on theses companies would be useful. They don't like being tied to anti-democractic, rightwing nuts and the fat white bald men running it.

“I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions,” Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Is the a large list of Chamber members somewhere? I do like my U verse, but I might consider getting an antennae. Are any executives of these companies listening?

seriouscat 5 years, 5 months ago

Looks like I am going to have to remove my banking from Cap Fed. Are you listening Cap Fed?

costello 5 years, 5 months ago

I closed my Cap Fed account several months ago. I got tired of them grabbing 'fees' from my account every time I turned around.

costello 5 years, 5 months ago

Both Dillons and HyVee are on this list.

costello 5 years, 5 months ago

And Aldi and Target and Walmart. I get some of my groceries at Costco and some at the Merc. Are there any other grocery stores in Lawrence or Topeka? What is that store in Baldwin City? And Overbrook is an IGA?

William Weissbeck 5 years, 5 months ago

Save for a few places like Costco, we are now owned by and work for "The Man." We don't exactly live in company towns and have to shop at the company store, but it's the same since every town has a Wal-Mart, and all our dollars go to their political causes to keep us in our place. The phone companies and cable companies are merging. So where are you going to get your cell phone, TV and Internet without them? You are owned by them more than you know.

costello 5 years, 5 months ago

I have an antennae, tomatogrower, and I'm perfectly happy with it. I get stations from both KC and Topeka.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't mind eliminating the payroll deduction - if people want to pay money to unions, they can write them a check each month.

What's the problem exactly?

But, a clear agenda to eliminate unions is another thing entirely - it's somewhat striking that this fellow said it straight out like that.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

The problem with outlawing payroll deduction is that it's none of anyone else's business whether or not the employees and employer agree to facilitate the employee's choice of how to spend their own money that way. There is ZERO logical rationale for outlawing the practice. It's only done to make extra work for unions so they can't focus on real issues.

But this bill goes FAR beyond that. It broadens the prohibited uses of dues dollars to include such nebulous things as "...promoting ideology..."; even "indirectly." (quotes from the bill itself). Since union staff and leadership are paid with dues money; this bill would prohibit union staff and leaders from commenting on virtually any issue.

The union president, for example, could not legally write an editorial about adequate and equitable school funding....or a proposed change to the KS constitution in that regard.

= blatant 1st Amendment violation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

“I need this bill passed so we can get rid of public sector unions,” Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, told the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee.

Others have already pointed to this astonishing bit of honesty. It indicates to me that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has become so arrogantly confident in their ability to push whatever draconian measures they want through this legislature that they don't care how fascist in nature their public statements are.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

"But business interests said businesses resent that people paid with tax dollars can pool their monies to try to elect candidates they favor."

First - Once that employee performs their job, and is paid, it's is no longer the right of businesses or lawmakers to tell them what to do with it.

Second - Does this mean that businesses who receive any tax monies, either in contracts or subsidies have to give up their rights to politic?

Yesterday I heard a story on NPR about the tomato growers association in Florida. They had a trade agreement with Mexico that Mexico wouldn't undercharge to compete with them. They want the government to end this agreement, because Mexico is selling a lot more tomatoes than they are. They claim this government regulation is hurting them. Then they want to accuse Mexico of dumping practices, and force a tariff. Are tariffs not government regulation? People are buying Mexican tomatoes, because they let the tomatoes ripen naturally. Florida picks them green, then pumps them with gas to finish ripening. Winter tomatoes from Mexico just taste better. But instead of competing in the "free market" they pretend to support, and improving their product, they want the government to step in and save them. It's kind of the Twinkie situation. Instead of adapting to customer's changing tastes, so they could compete, they blamed the workers. I'm pretty sick of conservative anti worker business people, whining about government regulations in one hand then paying for politicians for regulations that will make them more money.

I don't have a lot of respect for many business people, especially those who specialized with their MBA's. They do not have a broad education; they have no creativity or ability to see the big picture and look to the future. They are taught it's all about me and it's all about right now.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 5 months ago

Someone pointed out to me that there are free marketers and there are capitalists. They are not one in the same. Free marketers want transparent markets with the same rules applied to all enforced by a impartial government. A true capitalist wants monopoly and market manipulation when and where they can get away with it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Picking up on tomatogrower's question about membership in the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital a member. Teachers voluntarily contributing their own money for political purposes seems to me something that ought to a protected right, especially in light of the Citizen's United ruling that declared corporate money as "free speech."

But what business does a public institution such as Lawrence Memorial have in financing what is clearly nothing more than a right-wing political organization whose only mission is to shill for greater corporate power and ever greater concentrations of wealth for the already wealthy?

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Good question. Why on earth are they a member? Trying to drum up business?

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

90% of the money went directly to unions? Why, that's not a suspiciously hyped claim without a citation at all. And it worked so well, too. Why, Wisconsin is run by only Democrats now, right?

voevoda 5 years, 5 months ago

If more Republican candidates would support positions compatible with the values and interests of union members, then more Republican candidates would get financial support from union PACs. The problem isn't the unions, or the Democratic Party; the problem is the Republican Party.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Exactly. The teacher union interviews and investigates all candidates, then puts out the list of candidates who are supportive of public schools. Why wouldn't they? The NRA puts out a list of candidates who are gun friendly. You conservatives are such hypocrites. You say you believe in the constitution, but you really only believe the parts you want.

KSManimal 5 years, 5 months ago

Union membership is declining IN THE US not because unions are "going" extinct; rather because they are being attacked with legislation such as we are seeing in Topeka right now.

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

These legislators are trying to tamper with something that was already settled by the Supreme Court in Communication Workers of America v. Beck.

No one can be coerced into contributing to the political activities of a union. The way the KNEA deductions are set are completely in line with that Supreme Court decision.

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