A bill to prohibit payroll deductions for union dues prompted hours of impassioned testimony Thursday.
“Teachers, firemen, police — these are the people you trust every day to take care of everything in our communities. But you insult us by telling us we’re not smart enough to know if we want things taken out of our paycheck,” said an angry Melody Munch, president of the Jefferson Parish Federation of Teachers.
This was the fourth annual try for the so-called “Paycheck Protection Act”, pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
“It’s being advanced by the same folks everywhere, because it’s template legislation,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers president Steve Monaghan noted during his testimony against the bill.”
LABI president Stephen Waguespack said this is about drawing a bright line between political organizations and public employees.
“What if this bill said any pro-choice public employee could have the government collect Planned Parenthood dues? What about the same for a pro-life employee who wants to pay membership to the Family Forum?” Waguespack asked, by way of illustrating unallowable deductions that his organization believes are similar to union dues.
“I don’t want our government involved,” the bill’s author, Rep. Stuart Bishop of Lafayette, declared. “It is an inappropriate relationship for state and local to provide a membership structure of any kind for political organizations.”
Monroe Rep. Marcus Hunter wondered why they were taking attention and energy away from the real problem — the $1.6-billion hole in the budget — and spending it on debating union payroll deductions.
“This is absolutely ridiculous to me, but I just don’t understand the benefit,” Hunter said. “Nobody has been able to articulate to me, in the past four years I’ve been here, why this is needed.”
“This is obvious as to what the bill represents,” explained Chad Major, director of the Professional Firefighters Association. “We’re going to step on the unions.”
Despite dozens who spoke and hundreds who filed cards in opposition to HB 418, a 9 to 6 favorable vote has advanced the bill to the House floor.