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SPOTLIGHT
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Forked tongues stab public workers

Published on -2/7/2013, 10:58 AM

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Any hard-working, self-respecting wage earner knows payroll deduction has long been a fact of life. It's used for tax withholding, charitable giving such as the United Way, health insurance premiums, cafeteria plans for tax deductions -- and professional association (union) dues.

Now worker's unions are in the crosshairs of Kansas' Koch/Brownback Buddies, and KKBB's first legislative target is payroll deduction. Teachers, firemen, police, etc. can join and pay union dues without it -- but in the real, practical world, collecting dues to protect worker rights is made far more difficult.

The KKBB's know that, passing House Bill 2303 by a slim (68-56) margin. The bill bars using payroll-deducted public-employee money for any political purpose. Thus public workers will be outgunned in any kind of election -- school bond, school board, legislative or gubernatorial. Corporations and big-money enterprises, however, remain free to influence the public unimpeded. We public employees -- teachers, firemen, policemen -- are told by the state what we can and can't do with our payroll-deducted money.

And it will be "enacted" immediately upon the gov's signature, just in time to squash workers' voices in Slick Sam's upcoming assaults on responsible government.

So, how could any legislator defend a yes vote on 2023? They can't. But the language they use to "defend the indefensible" as George Orwell put it is, well, Orwellian.

Orwell's books, "1984" and "Politics and the English Language," and later, Edward S. Herman, political economist and media analyst, called it "doublespeak." Herman's book, "Beyond Hypocrisy," defines doublespeak as "the ability to lie, knowingly or unconsciously, and get away with it; and to choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don't fit (one's) agenda or program."

Here's the boiler-plate language ("clearing up some rhetoric") from 69th District's J.R. Claeys: HB2303 "removes the state of Kansas from the responsibility of bookkeeping for public sector union political action committees (PACS)."

Really?

In other words, our school districts, who have for years simply deducted dues from employees' pay like all other myriad deductions, simply won't do it -- or if they do, the law will not allow workers to use any of said funds to lobby to protect their employment rights.

My school district is not, with all due respect, "the state of Kansas." It is my partner in education. And to see this as some burden on the state is just plain malarkey.

Also, says Claeys, the bill "allows union members to ... contribute to a public sector PAC from the privacy of their home without outside pressure."

What universe does Claeys inhabit? It is hard enough, in a "right to work" state, to get teachers to join their local association. Kansas' law already ensures public workers are not legally required to join the group negotiating their hours, working conditions or compensation.

The built-in temptation to "free-ride" (which I myself once briefly indulged), makes it easy to forget that, without your association's solidarity, you do what The Man (or Woman) says.

In addition, some teachers' reluctance to join is heightened by already low salaries. (A goal of this administration?)

Claeys' implication of unbearable union pressure and a White Knight KS Legislature riding in to save the poor, downtrodden worker goes beyond implausible to ludicrous.

Another bill rumored ready for flash-passing, HB2085, essentially would dismantle professional negotiations, gutting the right of school and public employees to have a say in their wages, hours and working conditions.

These bills do not spring fresh from legislators' foreheads. They're not from J.R., but from ALEC.

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, backed by huge companies like State Farm, sends hundreds of pre-packaged, anti-worker, anti-citizen bills to all states. Some are passed. Some are not. Cumulatively, however, they bypass Congress and become de facto national legislation. For further information, google "The United States of ALEC."

Other representatives who voted for HB2032 should hear from you. And those who voted against it should be thanked.

The Senate's companion bill SB31 has not yet been voted on. Call your regional senators, especially Ralph Ostmeyer of Grinnell, to tell them this travesty of a bill should be rejected.

David Norlin, a resident of Salina and McCracken native, is a retired English and communications professor from Cloud County Community College and chairman of the Salina Human Relations Commission.

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