The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 23, 1998 · Page 20
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 20

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Saturday, May 23, 1998
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SATURDAY, MAY 23, 1998 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page "" editor i' ; Opinions '\a expressed on ;'!," this page are ;|- those of the identified '. writers. .' To join the !: conversation, '.'.write a letter to :|- the Journal at: ';;• P.O. Box 740 ;'' Salina, KS | 67402 : ;i. Fax: J "(785) 827-6363 J |j E-mail: 'la SJLetters® 1ikaljournal.com Quote of the day " Yes'is <everythingfor the '^future, and there is only more death and ^destruction with "!! a'no'vote." IIB •II .-il Linda McShane ;i!37-year-old west i|t Belfast resident ;]j! who had just !|» voted tor the ;mNorthern Ireland -I" peace pact COMMENT OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal The end of democracy THE ISSUE Union dues and school vouchers THEARGUMBVT Both fights stand against democracy I t is one thing to be unhappy with the people who are, at any given moment, running our government. It is quite another to be so displeased with the whole notion of representative government that one seeks to destroy it. These days attacks on the very idea of representative democracy are taking shape in two significant ways. One is the movement to deny labor unions the ability to use their members' dues for any political purposes without each member's written consent. The idea has been before Congress and various state legislatures, and is the subject of a ballot proposition in California next month. The theory is that union members are unhappy that part of their dues can be used by their unions to push political stands that members may personally disagree with. But the theory is seriously flawed because it ignores a key fact about labor unions: Their leaders are elected by the members. If the leaders use the members' money for things the members do not like, the solution is for the members to elect different leaders. If the members aren't gutsy enough to do that, why should the state intervene? The only reason to do so, of course, is to deprive working people of a voice in the political arena, one that is just as important as the labor-management relationship in dealing with such crucial issues as managed health care and the global economy. OK, if the union election process is corrupt, then there are ways to attack that. The federal government did just that in invalidating the results of the last national Teamsters election and barring the incumbent from participating in the do-over. The other wave of anti-republicanism (that's republican with a small "r") is the school voucher movement. It, like the push to gut labor unions, is based on the theory that elected school boards are not, and never will be, responsive to the will of their constituents, so those disenchanted with the public schools have no choice but to secede and, hopefully, take their money with them. But, again, any approach based on the theory that majority rule is necessarily bad and that people have no voice is both wrong and defeatist. If elected school boards and elected union officers have not, by that election, earned the power to act on behalf of their constituents, then what right does Congress, or the Kansas Legislature, have to govern our nation or state? None, of course. And that is exactly what this new generation of well- dressed anarchists is working toward. Make my study hall Cere's a solution to Schoolyard shootings: j&ive the teachers guns CAN SHE SAY THAT? This anti-union bill takes the cake TOM TEEPEN Cox News Service 1 don't know about you, but I'd feel a whole lot safer if just about everybody around me was packing heat. Jif one started to * •KJ:t out, the rest gpuld pull their guns and drill that fool right into the ;^ound. Summary Execution for pub- jic safety, I say, jihd if we have to jjyve with the rico- ^hets, isn't the peace of mind $orth it? •;|IA. fellow named (j[jphn R. Lott Jr. at 4 me University of ($iicago law school has written a tjj>ok proving, he says, that states •{hat let citizens carry concealed Jweapons, or have only loosey- ^oosey laws against it, have big ejrops in violent crime. He touts a Citizens' arms race as the cheapest 'fvay to get rid of criminals. | Sure, the idea that the more guns the merrier is counter-intuitive — there are about 200 million in circulation now — and, of c&urse, the usual whiners and nit- ^jjckers are indeed whining and 6itpicking. ' A paper in the Journal of Legal §fudies dismisses Lott's study be- eause, the authors find, it failed to Consider other anti-crime vari- 4t)les in making its cause-and-ef- f£ct claims, a fundamental gaffe. '' Lott says would-be murderers and rapists, when they fear an armed citizenry, switch to stealing cars and to hitting up coin-op machines. That has Handgun Control wondering how on Earth violent criminals, typically driven by fury and compulsion and impulse, could suddenly and coolly swap for calculated crimes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, another griper, gripes that concealed-weapon permit holders in Philadelphia have become straw gun-buyers for illegal markets. And then there's that study by the Centers for Disease Control, the one that found homes with guns, compared to homes without, are five times more likely to experience a suicide and three times more likely to have a member of the household killed by another member or by an acquaintance. Lott, however, is sticking by his guns. In a piece written for the Wall Street Journal, he says that if only the teachers had been armed, they could have prevented, or at least quickly ended, those recent student snooting sprees in Arkansas, Mississippi and Kentucky. The argument that an armed teacher is a dangerous teacher is hard to dismiss: Make my study hall. Recently a 5-year-old kindergartner in Memphis was caught at school with a .25-caliber semiautomatic he'd taken from a dresser at home, meaning to shoot his teacher for putting him in timeout the day before. If the kid had drawn on her, a teacher with a gun in her lap drawer could have whipped it out and smeared that little sucker all over the classroom. The other tykes no doubt would be better for the experience to boot. You're never too young to learn that the right answer to one gun is another. MOLLY IVINS Fort Worth Star-Telegram California proposition isn't about money, it's about destroying unions C alifornia, whew: Sometimes I think we ought to hang a cowbell around that sumbitch to let the future know to shut the gate. Its latest lunacy is the "campaign reform initiative," Proposition 226, also called "the pay-' check protection initiative," and if there were any truth-in-packaging laws in politics, its sponsors would be in Folsom Prison. Proposition 226 should properly be called the "let's put the unions out of business initiative." It has no more relation to campaign- finance reform or paycheck protection than it does to quantum physics. This is a full- blooded, blue-bellied, get-the- unions move sponsored by the zooiest collection of extremist right-wing money you ever saw. According to anti-Proposition 226 forces, three of the leading backers are Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh millionaire famous for funding right-wing conspiracy nuts and Paula Jones' lawsuit; J. Patrick Rooney, the Indiana insurance millionaire and Gingrich backer who supports a host of right-wing causes; and Grover Norquist, the all-purpose right-winger and head of Americans for Tax Reform, which is itself under Senate investigation for violating campaign laws in the '96 election. Some actual Californians are also involved: The May-June Mother Jones says an Orange County pro-school-voucher group called the Education Alliance, which focuses on electing conservative Christians to local school boards, came up with the idea for the "paycheck protection initiative" after the California Teachers Association helped defeat a school-voucher initiative five years ago. This Education Alliance in turn gets most of its funding from Howard Ahmanson, a wealthy businessman who reportedly funnels millions to radical- right groups and is linked to James Dobson's fundamentalist organization, Focus on the Family, in Colorado Springs, Colo. The plan is simple: If the initiative passes, unions will have to get written permission from each member every year to use union dues for political activity. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, as long as corporations are also required to get written permission from each shareholder every year before the corporation can use any money for any political activity. But this'proposition is aimed only at unions. It would cost the unions millions of dollars and untold amounts of time to get these annual permibsion slips, and that, of course, is the whole point: to weaken the political power of unions, which are already outspent by business. Just what the country needs, complete domination of politics by corporations and the only organizations that speak for American workers shut out entirely. This stinks. T UNCOMMON SENSE Just what the country needs, complete domination of politics by corporations and the only organizations that speak for American workers shut out entirely. Theoretically reasonable newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune have actually endorsed this travesty. The unions started 50 points behind on this cunningly packaged "campaign reform initiative" and have now fought back to within hailing distance, but the election is June 2, and polls show many voters still think this has something to do with campaign-contribution reform. What. A. Mess. For those who are interested in how unions actually work, they do spend millions in independent campaign expenditures — $35 million in '96 — mostly on producing their own TV ads about Medicare, Social Security and so on. But the Citizens for Responsive Politics reports unions were still outspent 11 to 1 by business. However, they are forbidden by law from contributing directly to federal campaigns except through political action committees. PAC money has to be raised separately from union dues and so would be unaffected by Proposition 226. Norquist has reportedly said his vision is to "crush labor unions as a political entity." Since unions normally help Democrats, this is also a straight-up .partisan-advantage battle, but even more, it's about getting a specific political agenda passed, an agenda that includes private school vouchers (the ruination of the public schools), medical savings accounts (privatized Medicare), privatized Social Security and forced school prayer. There's not any doubt about what the money behind this proposition really wants: It's all in the public record. Dee Simpson, the veteran Texas organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been dispatched to California for the duration and finds it inexpressibly strange — and this is a man used to South Texas politics. He believers Gov. Pete Wilson is disingenuous. Anyone familiar with the anti-union sentiment in Texas will not be surprised to learn that everything from Teamster corruption to the way labor skates dress (they are somewhat given to the Full Cleveland — white shoes, white belts, gold chains) is being used against the unions in this battle. Peter Schrag's excellent new book, "Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future," is a sobering examination of how California went from being the Golden State, No. 1 in almost every area of governance, to iljs current abysmal condition: It spends more on prisons than it does on universities. Sadly enough, the answer is a series of these propositions — faux-populist, catchy, bumper-sticker ideas misle.adingly presented with hideous unintended consequences. Proposition 226 i's like a poster child for Schrag's argument about how a great state was ruined. i i Union dues and don'ts in California Big Labor leaders spend money without regard for members' beliefs L OS ANGELES — California voters will decide on June 2 which Democrat they want running for governor against the sole major Republican candidate, State Attorney General Dan Lungren. An important initiative, Proposition 226, will also appear on the ballot. The proposition asks voters whether union members should continue to be forced to pay $40 million of their union dues without their permission for causes and candidates many of them don't support. The proposition would require union leaders to get their members' written permission before using union dues for political purposes. And it would <t block employers from making automatic deductions from paychecks for such political contributions or expenditures without the workers' annual written permission. The question is huge because Big Labor has announced an expensive nationwide campaign to regain the House of Representatives for the Democratic Party in the November elections. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has pledged to recruit, train and deploy a grass-roots army of union campaign workers to elect more Democrats to the House. A Los Angeles Times poll found that 66 percent of likely voters and 58 percent of union CAL THOMAS Los Angeles Times Syndicate No one should be forced to subsidize causes with which he or she disagrees as part of the condition of employment. members support Proposition 226. But union leaders continue to spend their members' money to oppose if. The California Teachers Association promises to spend $3 million to defeat Proposition 226, despite the fact that 70 percent of its union members favor it. California's 2.2 million public- and private- sector union members pay about $880 million per year in union dues, according to an analysis by former Labor Department economist Mark Wilson, now with The Heritage Foundation. Union leaders, he writes, spend as much as 4.6 percent of dues, or $40.5 million, for political causes. If Proposition 226 passes, workers could demand significant sums be returned to them if they disagree with the way their dues are spent. That means 230,000 teachers would have access to $4.2 million, 118,000 truck drivers could get back $2.2 million, 62,000 police officers could demand $1.1 million, 85,000 postal workers could draw $1.6 million, and $3.8 million would be available to 204,000 mechanics and repairers. Some might choose to support their unions' political activities, but they would have a choice. Current law supports such choices, but many workers complain of intimidation by union officials or say they weren't aware they have such a choice. In 1988, the Supreme Court DOONESBURY ruled in Communications Workers of America vs. Beck that members of unions may choose what political activities they support. That means a pro-school-choice teacher can refuse to allow her union dues to be spent against education vouchers. An electrician who favorjs free trade would not be required to underwrite with his dues a union effort in support of trade barriers. J; President George Bush ordered that notices of union workers' rights be posted in workplaces. But when President Clinton took offic£ in 1993, one of his early acts was to order th£ notices removed. •• If Proposition 226 passes, it will fuel similar efforts in 26 other state legislatures. Nevadft and Oregon are among several states collecj- ing signatures for ballot initiatives that would enshrine workers' rights in state law. Some estimates show that if all union-covered, private-sector employees in states without protective Right-to-Work laws learned d.f their rights under Beck, and just 25 percent chose to object to the way their dues are spent; Big Labor would forfeit $266 million per year (assuming a 20 percent average refund of their compulsory union dues used for politics). Right now, that money gives unions an unfair advantage in politics and an unfair amount of power over some of its members. ••• No one should be forced to subsidize causes with which he or she disagrees as part of the condition of employment. The passage of Proposition 226, and a wider dissemination of workers' rights under Beck, will help bring more equality to the political process'and reduce the unfair advantage Big Labor has had for too long over the consciences of its own members. By G.B. TRUDEAU ALMOST 30. I'm HAPTDHII& ... NOTTOM&fnONA COACH. AS YOU'MIGHT'IMAGING-, HAVGA FAIFU-Y C&CeNT BHSKerBAUrSQUAP. UK BQARP/N0, HONEY? A MfJKIWNIST. IKNO14J, WHOHASNT?

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