Ever since its purchase by a right-wing mega-millionaire with a history of being challenged by basic journalistic ethics, the Wall Street Journal has sometimes refused to let facts interfere with an editorial policy strongly tilted against the working class, the backbone of America, and it has done so again.
This time, school teachers and other public employees in Texas are in the crosshairs of a WSJ editorial that ran over the weekend, deliberately lying to the public about a bill that would end for most public employees in Texas the long-time practice of having their union or professional association dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.
In its opening paragraph, the editorial implies the automatic deduction system is a “corrupt bargain between government and politicians,” when, in truth, it is nothing of the kind. It simply is a voluntary, convenient and secure way for teachers and other government workers to handle their membership dues. For example, it provides more security against identify theft than an automatic funds transfer from a bank account.
In the vast majority of cases, the act of withholding membership dues doesn’t cost the government anything, and, if it does, existing law already provides a way for organizations to reimburse taxpayers. Consequently, no governing board, to my knowledge, has asked for the practice to be banned. In fact, the superintendent of Houston ISD, the state’s largest school district, has been among many individuals and groups speaking out against the proposed change.
The Senate last week, nevertheless, approved Senate Bill 1968, which would ban automatic dues deductions for most public employees but only for selected organizations. Now, the Wall Street Journal is trying to put pressure on Speaker Joe Straus and the House, where similar legislation, so far, has gone nowhere.
Police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel are exempted from the bill. So they could continue to enjoy the convenience of automatic dues deductions while school and other municipal employees could not. Various charitable organizations, including some tax-exempt groups that actively engage in politics, could also continue to have their dues automatically deducted.
Unions are the primary target of this legislation, which not only is unfair but also ludicrous in Texas, which has been a right-to-work state since 1947 and will remain one for a long time to come.
Here are a couple of other big lies from backers of the legislation.
CLAIM: Union membership dues are primarily used to finance political activity.
FACT: In truth, membership dues are given voluntarily and may not be used for political activities or campaign contributions. They are completely separate from the voluntarily contributions some union members make to a political action committee for political activities. And, some of the charitable organizations that would be untouched by the bill are heavily involved in right-wing, anti-consumer, anti-worker politics.
CLAIM: Unions work to elect only Democrats to public office.
FACT: In truth, the Texas State Teachers Association’s political action committee is bipartisan. It supports both Democrats and Republicans in state races and nonpartisan candidates in local school board elections. The TSTA PAC doesn’t evaluate candidates on their partisan affiliation, only on their commitment to public schools and students. And the PAC is supported by voluntary contributions from TSTA members, which are separate and in addition to membership dues.
CLAIM: Unions “automatically dun workers for political causes those workers don’t support.”
FACT: In Texas, a right-to-work state, no one is “automatically dunned” or coerced by a union. Paying dues to an organization is completely voluntary.
The Wall Street Journal article is aimed at Texas, but the world it describes has precious little to do with the Lone Star State. It has everything to do, though, with the efforts of self-styled “free market” advocates to disrespect workers, including the people who teach their children, get them to school and back safely every day and ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.
What is at play here is a scorched-earth effort by the privileged one-percenters and others of their ilk to destroy the basic employment rights of workers in Texas and the United States, a selfish, greedy and short-sighted attitude that threatens to undermine the very social fabric holding our country together.