Published: Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Warring factions will spend untold millions of dollars on political propaganda to sway California voters on Proposition 32 this year, and while each denounces the other as a pack of scoundrels, neither likes the media’s capsule description, “paycheck protection.”
Twice before, in 1998 and 2005, voters rejected measures that would restrict unions from collecting political funds via payroll deductions, so backers came up with a new wrinkle in 2012.
They expanded it into a ban on direct contributions to political candidates from both unions and corporations, while continuing to prohibit payroll deductions without specific permission from union members or corporate employees.
That means, its sponsors say, that it’s an evenhanded restriction on both labor and management, so the term “paycheck protection” no longer applies.
But opponents contend that the corporate restrictions have loopholes so the real effect is still to curb union political power. And they prefer the term “special protections act.”
Whatever the term, it’s clearly part of a nationwide effort by conservative groups to hamstring union political influence. Several other states have adopted similar laws, and anecdotally, they appear to have sharply reduced the political money that unions, especially public employee unions, can collect.
The real issue for voters, therefore, is whether they believe unions have an unfair advantage in gathering money from payroll deductions to spend on friendly politicians, or whether restricting such fundraising would unfairly limit their ability to participate in politics.
Jerry Brown’s signature on collective bargaining legislation nearly 40 years ago, during his first stint as governor, paved the way for a virtual revolution in the balance of political power.
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