It made the blood boil to read about “a deliberate and willful attack on state workers,” a plot to “trample on” their constitutional rights.
Such tyranny should not be inflicted on any citizen of these United States, but the press release denouncing this outrage explains that the victims here are practically saints. What’s the price of freedom, if we can do this to the “men and women who risk their lives for their fellow Louisianans, who teach our children and protect our homes?”
This, of course, is calculated to put the Fourth Estate on full alert. Time to invoke the Founding Fathers, to remind the world of the heroes who fought and died for our freedoms. We might need to go further back than the Bill of Rights to convey the enormity of this assault on the principles that underpin the Republic. Yessir, this could be one of those occasions when we go the whole hog and wheel out the Magna Carta.
The press release comes from the state Democratic Party, which is in fits over House Bill 418. Indeed, the Democrats are in such a fury that they forgot to explain in their press release what HB418 would do. The hands shake as you look it up to see just how these fiendish Republicans plan to strip hard-working police officers, firefighters and teachers of their First Amendment rights.
That they are all hard-working is a given. Indeed, when was the last time you heard a politician mention a dollar that wasn’t “hard-earned?”
Regardless, as HB418 emerged from committee, and Democrats announced “working people” were threatened with losing the right to free association, the imagination ran riot. Perhaps HB418 cleared the way for the Republicans to enlist a few goons and break the unions.
The text of the bill was a bit of a letdown. It merely says state employees can no longer have their union dues deducted from their paychecks. They’ll just have to remit the money themselves.
To overwrought Democrats, this is “insulting” to “working men and women,” and is intended to “harass and inconvenience” them. “It is a freedom issue,” one union official testified in committee. The Democratic press release sees it as an assault on the sacred right of state employees to “determine for themselves how their paychecks (are) distributed.”
“Which group of Louisiana taxpayers,” the Democrats wonder, “will the GOP kneecap next?”
The rest of us must wonder what kind of a hysterical outburst would greet a real attempt to curtail workers’ rights. Nobody proposes to tell employees how to spend their money, or seeks to impede union activities. The question is whether state government should be the unions’ dues collector.
The answer is clearly no. The unions point out that money may be withheld from paychecks for various other organizations — health insurance companies and credit unions, for instance — and it is unfair to deprive them of a similar benefit. But unions are obviously different; they are political animals that spend a lot of time lobbying the very government that collects dues on their behalf. The teacher unions have, for instance, put up a determined resistance to charter schools and other moves to reform public education.
Union lobbying efforts are by no means restricted to the welfare of their members, as Kevin Kane, head of the Pelican Institute, a Libertarian think tank, points out. Unions espouse such causes as gun control, abortion and “Obamacare,” and may therefore be out of step not only with taxpayers but with their own members. The unions “do not have the right to outsource their fundraising to the government,” Kane avers.
Although the cost of collecting and remitting dues to the unions is inconsequential, the state should not be doing favors to special interests with a legislative agenda. The bill is calculated to cost the unions some members when dues are no longer deducted automatically, but to call this an attempt to silence them is way over the top.
Voters, according to the Democrats’ press release, will make the Republicans pay for this crime against working stiffs come election day. If this bill is what voters remember when the session is over, we will have fared better than seems likely right now.
James Gill’s email address is email@example.com.