Romney Favors Restrictions On Union Dues
Professor Bill Gould spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle's Bob Egelko about Mitt Romney's vow to prohibit labor unions from using due from members' paychecks for political campaigns and what it actually may mean for the future of unions in politics.
If elected president, Mitt Romney says, he'll ask Congress to prohibit labor unions from using dues deducted from their members' paychecks for political campaigns, a nationwide application of the Proposition 32 initiative that Californians will consider next week.
The Republican candidate has been publicly silent on Prop. 32, a measure that has drawn a torrent of money and intense campaigning from businesses and unions. But in a campaign website posting titled "Believe in America: Mitt Romney's Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth," he offers an identical proposal as one of several measures to weaken organized labor.
The right of employees to refuse to spend their union dues on political campaigns has been established by Supreme Court rulings dating to the 1950s, said William Gould, a Stanford law professor who was chairman of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994 to 1998.
"Unions, because they're concerned with legislation involving employment conditions, have to be involved in politics," Gould said, crediting pressure from unions for laws on minimum wages and workplace health and safety. Romney and Prop. 32's backers "are trying to push them out of the political process," he said.
Gould called that assessment "a gross oversimplification." Among the many reasons for the decline of unions, he said, are the loss of manufacturing jobs and proliferation of harder-to-unionize service industries, globalization, government deregulation, and weak labor laws and enforcement that allow employers to thwart union organizing.