As reported by Steve Harmon in the San Jose Mercury News,
the Stop Special Interest Money initiative on the November ballot will stir up public employee unions in a frantic effort to defeat it. The measure would require union members to declare they want some of their dues to be used for political purposes and set up similar rules for corporation employees, as well.
UC San Diego political science professor, Thad Kousser, pointed out in the article the importance of this measure to the unions declaring that it could change the balance of power in Sacramento. “Defeating this has got to be the top goal of labor. If they don’t, they could become almost extinct in California politics.”
Why do unions feel they would be completely stripped of power if this measure passes? After all, members supporting the unions’ political action could still agree to donate to the political fund and engage in campaigns for candidates and ballot measures. True, union leaders would have to sell their membership on the positions they want to take. If done successfully, the union would have the resources to conduct a campaign.
I asked Kousser about the unions’ sense of doom attached to the initiative. He responded, “This is less a test of loyalty to unions than it is a test of their logistical ingenuity. Right now, union members can opt out of having their dues used for politics. This would force them to opt in. That sounds like a logistical nightmare so severe that it dramatically restricts the amount of money available for campaigns.”
Yet, I’ve been on many campaigns in which we had to start from scratch asking for dollars to support our efforts. For example, taxpayer groups cannot automatically deduct donations from supporters for political activity. They have to ask.
Asking for support from members of any organization shows that individuals in the organization truly are in sync with the group’s political direction; that the members trust the programs the leaders set out.
If the union leadership believes its members support the political positions the union takes they should have no difficulty raising funds. If they do have problems raising funds the leaders will be forced to re-think their agendas to satisfy members in a true democratic fashion.