NEA/MEA Prepare to Attack Groups that Push for Worker Rights

Alleged Conspiracy "Web" Includes Mackinac Center

MIDLAND—In a closed-door Washington, D. C., news conference, the National Education Association will release a 115-page report today at 9:00 A.M. alleging a conspiracy among several organizations to undermine labor unions by advancing proposals that require written approval before unions take money from worker paychecks. The NEA-affiliated Michigan Education Association is expected to join the criticism of such "Paycheck Protection" laws, as well as their primary proponent in Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

A Mackinac Center report calling for a Michigan Paycheck Protection law released last month, as well as a recent narrow defeat of a Paycheck Protection initiative in California, have union officials worried that their finances may be in jeopardy. The NEA document alleges that a conspiracy exists among several foundations, policy institutes, and political organizations to advance Paycheck Protection and other worker-rights measures.

At issue is the compulsory nature of union membership and financial support. Today labor unions automatically collect dues money from workers, a portion of which is used for non-collective bargaining purposes such as political activity. Surveys indicate that 40 percent of union members support Republican candidates, but over 95 percent of union political funding goes to Democratic candidates, creating dissension among many rank-and-file union members.

"Union officials are out of touch with their membership," said Robert Hunter, a former member of the National Labor Relations Board and Director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center. "When they are free to choose, workers object to a lack of representation." In California over 75 percent of union members supported the Paycheck Protection proposal at the beginning of the campaign. Support dropped considerably during a deceptive $25 million union opposition campaign which outspent proponents 6 to 1.

According to an internal MEA survey, for example, 69% of teachers and 86% of union leaders are bothered that "the MEA takes stands I do not agree with." (For more details see, "Teachers Disagree with MEA Policies and Activities.") A 1994 Michigan law that required unions to get written worker approval for political action committee (PAC) contributions caused up to a 90 percent drop in funding for some union PACs.

Modern labor unions have become huge financial conglomerates, offering credit cards, auto, home, medical and life insurance, travel packages, and financial planning services. The NEA’s 580 full-time employees earn average compensation of over $98,000 per year.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a ten-year-old Midland-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan, research and educational institute.