Unions in Texas claim legislation to end government involvement in their dues collections would harm state employees, expose them to data breaches, or undermine their right to join unions--all of these claims are false.
In 2015, total state employee union dues withheld were $5.8 million compared to $3.1 million in 2005. See the chart (right) for the trend of total amounts from 2005-2015.
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printable fact sheets
1. most texans support our legislation
UPDATE: "Public Collection" Prop. 3 passes with 83% support in Texas GOP Primary Race.
According to an April 2015 poll by Keep Texas Working:
- 60% of registered Texas voters believe it is a conflict of interest for government to collect dues for labor unions (only 26% believe it is not a conflict of interest). 70% of registered Republican voters agree. Almost half (49%) of registered Democrats agree.
- 62% of Texans support legislation to end government dues withholding for labor unions (only 28% oppose such legislation).
- Support among registered Republicans is 70%. A majority (54%) of registered Democrats support such legislation.
- Even a majority of union members (57%) who are registered to vote believes allowing government to withhold union dues presents a conflict of interest, and an astonishing two-thirds (67%) of union members support legislation to end the practice.
2. the majority of political spending by public sector unions in texas goes to democrats
- The state's major teachers union gave 81% ($2.8 million) of their political contributions to Democrats (compared to $658,000 to Republicans) in the last three election cycles.
- AFSCME gave 99% of its political contributions ($1.6 million) to Democrats in the last three election cycles. SEIU gave 98% of its contributions ($2.2 million) to Democrats.
3. pulic sector union funds are used for "turn texas blue" and other political initiatives texans oppose
- AFSCME gave $105,000 to Battleground Texas in 2013, an organization formed to defeat Republican candidates, and $62,000 to its total union in Austin for related "political program support." It also gave $60,000 for the "Houston Turnout Project" and $25,000 to Engage Texas, which describes itself as "an organization to support and coordinate progressive organizations around Texas."
- SEIU gave $1 million in 2013 to Good Jobs Great Houston, a "Turn Texas Blue" organization run by Texas Organizing project (or TOPS, formerly ACORN). It also gave TOPS an additional $550,000 for its "Turn Texas Blue" campaign.
- AFSCME also gave $200,000 in 2013 to American Bridge (a George Soros-funded progressive organization), $150,000 to the Center for American Progress (founded by former Obama advisors to advance his labor and environmental agendas, and $30,000 to Media Matters, an organization formed by a top advisor to Hillary Clinton to attack conservatives.
4. the largest public sector unions that have entered texas are behind social movements and practices texans reject
- According to 2015 research by Daniel DiSalvo and Stephen Eide of the Manhattan Institute, the SEIU "has branched out to support other ‘progressive' causes, including tax increases, gay rights, climate change, and an expansive immigration policy. It has helped underwrite 'living wage' campaigns, including the 'Fight for $15' fast-food workers’ movement, and lent support to the recent antipolice protests in New York City and elsewhere. [link to “The Union That Rules NYC”]
- According to DiSalvo and Eide, the SEIU "must exaggerate threats to keep members engaged. Without uncompromising rhetoric and a sense of perpetual crisis, the union would risk seeing enthusiasm dwindle.” [Ibid.]
- According to Jennifer Cunningham, an SEIU executive, the union has “[took] the existing [union] culture of giving to political candidates and ramp[ed it up to a whole new level,” and attributes the union’s success to “the ability to mobilize voters around a public policy issue, sophistication of materials, and frankly, a boatload of cash.” [Ibid.]
5. state employees support our legislation
Claims that any state employee would be “harmed” under the proposed legislation are false. In fact, most union members do not want government to withhold their union dues.
Only union leaders are complaining. Rank-and-file employees who are members of the unions prefer alternatives that put them back in control. Though Texas is a right-to-work state, state employees often feel coerced to pay union dues when their employer—government—is the dues collector.
In an April 2015 survey by Keep Texas Working, an astonishing 67% of union members who are registered to vote said they support legislation to end government withholding of union dues. In fact, 57% of union members believe allowing government to withhold union dues presents a conflict of interest (see more information at www.KeepTexasWorking.org).
Eliminating government involvement in dues withholding does not affect the rights of public sector employees in any way. They may continue to participate in unions, or exercise their rights to not participate.
When similar legislation passed in Wisconsin—a pro-union state— a majority of public sector employees opted to not continue as union members. Unlike Wisconsin, unions in Texas may not engage in “collective bargaining” with state agencies. As a result, Texas public sector employees tend to participate in unions for other services. The reality is that rank-and-file members of public sector unions in Texas are less concerned about losing government dues withholding services than their union leaders.
6. what about data breaches?
Claims that state employees data is managed by government more securely than by traditional institutions such as banks and credit card processors are false. Government agencies and municipalities in Texas have been responsible for numerous data breaches that have exposed critical state employee information.
In June 2010, the University of Texas at Arlington learned that the medical records of 27,000 students and faculty had been exposed online on four separate occasions. Many records included Social Security numbers.
In 2011 the Texas Comptroller’s office exposed 3.5 million Social Security numbers, names, and addresses. Many records also contained drivers’ licenses and dates of birth. The data was unencrypted and left on a publicly accessible server for over one year. The data exposed the identities of 2 million unemployment insurance claimants registered with the Texas Workforce Commission, 1.2 million state education employees and retirees registered under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, and 281,000 state employees and retirees covered by the Employees Retirement System of Texas.
In November 2011, the University of Texas Pan American posted personal information about 19,276 students online in a publicly accessible spreadsheet. The information included names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, college IDs, and other sensitive information. The data was accessible for over two months.
- In April 2012, the Texas Attorney General’s office delivered data files to outside lawyers that were believed to contain partially redacted Social Security numbers. Instead, the files included approximately 6.5 million complete Social Security numbers and names. Also In 2012, the Texas Department of Public Safety was hacked over the internet. Private and confidential information was stolen and deleted.
- In November 2013, an audit by the City of Austin uncovered the following problems with its data management programs: (1) 52% of departments did “not have written policies and procedures for the collection, access, storage, and disposal of (personally identifiable information);” (2) 45% of departments had “employees who do not receive training on the collection, access, storage, and disposal of (personally identifiable information),” and; (3) 38% of departments did “not have an individual who is responsible for the oversight and security of (personally identifiable information).”
- In March 2015, the Social Security numbers and full names of 4,697 staff and teaching assistants at Texas A&M University were posted online in an unencrypted format. The personal data was publicly available for over 20 days. In April 2015, at least a dozen University of Texas Law School faculty had their identities stolen through a tax scam.
7. How do teachers compare?
It is useful to keep a few additional points in mind:
- Since 2000, 76% of teachers union contributions to politicians and 99% of their contributions to political organizations (e.g. political parties) have gone to Democrats.
- Direct political contributions by all unions is small compared to their “soft” contributions, such as offering political endorsements to candidates, volunteer block-walking, and 501(c)4 and Super-PAC (not affiliated with specific candidates) contributions.
- In addition, the greatest political power of teachers unions is in their ability to organize rank-and-file teachers around policies that advance or protect union priorities.
The major teachers groups in Texas contributed a total of $1.4 million to state legislators during the last election/legislative cycle:
- Texas State Teachers Association (Union, NEA Chapter): $350,881
- Texas Classroom Teachers Association (50k+ members, Professional Association): $128,003
- Association of Texas Professional Educators (100k+ members, Professional Association): $176,500
- Texas American Federation of Teachers (Union, AFT Chapter, 65k+ members): $193,680
In addition, the two largest national teachers unions made the following contributions in the same cycle:
- American Federation of Teachers: $495,000
- National Education Association: $95,000
8. our legislation does not restrict teachers' rights
The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) is telling legislators that ending government involvement in dues withholding will limit rights for teachers and poses constitutional issues. These claims are false.
Our legislation places no restrictions on teachers who wish to join, participate in, or fund unions and other employee organizations. It only says government cannot favor unions and employee organizations by offering to manage their dues programs. Similar laws have been enacted in numerous states, including Oklahoma most recently.
ATPE also claims its members will be harmed by losing the "convenience" of government services to collect their payments. In fact, employees may make the same arrangements through their banks or credit cards--a one-time task that will produce the exact results.
ATPE even claims alternatives--such as "bill pay" and other online banking services--expose members to identify theft. In fact, electronic funds transfers (ETFs) by banks are a safer alternative. For example, the state comptroller's office suffered a security breach in 2011 of its records for the Teachers Retirement System of Texas that was described as "the most extensive ever in Texas and one of the largest of its kind nationally." The breach affected 1.2 million education employees and 281,000 other state employees and retirees.
Finally, ATPE claims legislation that allows payroll deductions for some purposes and not others is not constitutional because it results in "viewpoint suppression" and lacks a "rational basis." In fact, such legislation does not suppress the views of teachers (or their employee organizations) in any way, just as failure to collect dues for country club or church memberships does not suppress the views of country clubs or churches.
ATPE does not want business owners to know that the state's major teachers unions gave 81% ($2.8 million) of their political contributions to Democrats in the last three election cycles. It also hopes to hide the fact that when similar legislation was passed in Wisconsin--a pro-union state--a majority of teachers opted to not continue as union members. The reality is that teachers are less concerned about losing government dues withholding services than union leaders who rely on this service to keep their jobs.