howardnlby Howard Stephenson
Utah’s teacher unions and public employee unions have failed in their attempt to overturn Utah’s paycheck protection law, based on a recent ruling by Third District Judge Stephen Henriod. The law prohibits government labor unions from using the taxpayer-funded state payroll system to collect their political contributions. For many years the government’s collection of political funds have given unions an enormous advantage in the political process of amassing huge campaign war chests to support the candidates of their choice. This decision gave state and local governments and school boards back some of their integrity because taxpayer money is no longer used to support the political preferences of government labor unions.
Known as the paycheck protection law, the Voluntary Contributions Act was signed into law nearly two years ago and now because of this decision the constitutionality of its main provisions have been verified.
In addition to the prohibition of using the state payroll system, unions by law must keep political contributions segregated and voluntary. The decision stated that, “Furthermore, the right to decline support ‘may be furthered through the use of a separate, segregated fund established to ensure that employee contributions are a voluntary activity.’ ” Therefore, unions cannot spend member dues on politics. A member can make political contributions voluntarily outside the dues check-off system. However, the decision provides dues paying members more freedom because they can be a member and decline to support the union’s campaign war chests. “The controlling law holds that union members have a First Amendment right to decline to support political activities through union dues.”
In his decision, Judge Henriod upheld the “payroll deduction” provisions against all constitutional challenges, except as to existing contracts between unions and public employers. If a union does not have an express agreement with a government entity to make payroll deductions, the VCA’s prohibitions against such deductions must be implemented immediately. As existing government contracts expire, this portion of the VCA will also go into effect for these unions.
Prohibiting the abuse of the state payroll system and making union political contributions segregated and voluntary provides Utah taxpayers a reason to declare victory. This decision gave Utah taxpayers more freedom, fairness and integrity in government.