The concept of paycheck protection is popular among workers, even those who recently voted against a proposal in California because of certain concerns and criticisms raised by opponents.
In 1988, the U. S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case Communication Workers v.
Beck, which established the rights of employees working under union contracts
to pay only those union dues or fees necessary for performance of a union’s employee
representation duties. Under Beck, fees to support union expenditures unrelated to
workplace representation, such as political, social, or charitable contributions, are not
Although these "Beck rights" of union workers are well established as
a matter of American labor policy, they go largely unrealized in practice for the
Several states, including Idaho and Washington, have enacted a measure known as
"paycheck protection" to remedy these deficiencies in Beck rights
enforcement. Paycheck protection safeguards worker rights by requiring unions to obtain
up-front, written approval from individual workers before they spend dues money on
political or other non-workplace-related activities.
Michigan has taken a significant, though limited, step in this area by enacting Public
Act 117 of 1994. Under this legislation, individual workers must give their consent each
year before payroll dues deductions can be used for political action fund contributions.
Full paycheck protection would extend these requirements to cover all union
non-workplace-related dues expenditures.
Paycheck protection is not a cure-all for workers who are trapped in compulsory union
arrangements because the law grants to unions privileges that subordinate workers’
individual rights to the "collective good" of the union membership. Paycheck
protection is, however, a more balanced pro-worker approach:
The concept of paycheck protection is popular among workers, even those who recently
voted against a proposal in California because of certain concerns and criticisms raised
by opponents. But paycheck protection, understood as a positive step toward fulfilling the
promise of the Beck decision, withstands these concerns and criticisms.
Michigan should build upon Public Act 117 and enact full paycheck protection reforms to
safeguard the individual rights of the state’s nearly one million union workers.