Prop. 32: Stop the Special Exemptions and End Union Dominance

Instead of swing-state presidential ads, Californians get proposition campaigns.  One–No on 32: Stop the Special Exemptions Act–is particularly notable for two ironies.

The first irony is that Proposition 32 creates no special exemptions to put a stop to.  It would ban corporate and union contributions to candidates and their committees, contractor donations to politicians who control contracts sought, and deductions from employee’s wages for politics, without annual written permission.

However, unions and their puppets claim it creates a special exemption for corporations, because the ban on direct contributions doesn’t restrict their ability to fund independent campaigns.  But such donations are constitutionally protected forms of speech, which cannot be restricted, so the “special exemption” is failing to ban what cannot be banned.  And unions are also left free to do the same.  Beyond that, Prop. 32 only restricts union political funds by requiring employee permission, reflecting Thomas Jefferson’s dictum that “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  Clearly, unions are not objecting to special exemptions for others, but to losing a special privilege of their own.

The anti-32 alliance has also asserted that there is a loophole for licensed limited companies and trusts, because they are not technically corporations.  But with constitutionally-protected independent campaigns the dominant approach, that loophole is irrelevant except to misrepresent the issue to uninformed voters.

The far greater irony of a union campaign to stop special exemptions is that unions have achieved their inordinate power only through a host of special exemptions and privileges.  If we eliminated those, as their campaign suggests would be good policy, unions and their ability to dictate policy would essentially disappear.

Unions have been exempted from antitrust laws.  Others’ restraints of trade would land them in jail, but not union restraints.

Unions are exempt from prosecution for any acts by members or officers in the course of strikes.  As former Attorney General Ed Meese testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the 1973 Enmons ruling, “permits union officials–alone among corporate or associational officers in the United States–to use violence and threats of violence to life and property to achieve their goals.”

Unions are exempted from lower wage competition for government contracts by the Davis-Bacon Act’s “prevailing wage” requirements, generally interpreted to be higher, union wages.  They also leverage strike threats into Project Labor Agreements that can impose union wages, restrictions and work rules for large construction projects.

Unions are exempt from federal injunctions to interrupt strikes—even violent strikes—under virtually all conditions.

Labor law imposes “exclusive representation,” in which a union that wins a certification election is given monopoly authority to bargain for every worker.  No one can use a different union than certified (and changing the certified union is very difficult) and no one can represent themselves.  Unions are further empowered by “good faith” bargaining rules that require employers to compromise with the monopoly union.

Non-union employers can be forced to hire paid union organizers as ordinary employees, even though their main goal is to undermine the employer’s non-union status.

Mass picketing of a strike target is allowed not just by those on strike, but by large numbers of others not directly involved, to intimidate targets and those who would work for or do business with them.

Unionized firms’ workers can be forced to join or pay association fees whether they wish to or not, but contracts in which workers agree to abstain from union involvement are illegal.

Unions are protected by restrictions on other ways to improve labor-management relations.  Company unions are banned, as are “quality circles” and other “employee involvement” efforts not under union control.

The union-funded (The California Teachers Association alone has given almost twice the entire “Yes on 32” budget) “Stop the Special Exemptions Act” campaign is a major misrepresentation.  Prop. 32 creates no special exemptions.  It only threatens one of unions’ special government-created powers to benefit themselves at others’ expense. Further, if unions really believed in eliminating special exemptions and privileges, they would eliminate the many government props that empower their domination of California politics.   But we don’t hear a word about eliminating those special exemptions.

(Gary Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)