Today SB 1968 by Senator Joan Huffman passed the Texas Senate in an attempt to limit public employees voice in Austin. State employees and correctional officers are already limited in organizing in a right to work state. Senator Huffman's Finance workgroup committee only approved a 2.5% raise in 2016 for TDCJ officers despite the agency having over 3,600 vacancies.
Senator Huffman represents a district that ranges from Sugarland to Angleton, where numerous TDCJ prisons are located. Correctional officers and teachers could prove to be a major threat to Senator Huffman during a contested primary.
SB 1968 may be an attempt to limit public employees activities while Senate Republicans plan future attacks against public employees such as raiding pension funds and cutting insurance benefits which has been seen in other states.
SB 1968 Denies Economic Freedom to Public Employees
SB 1968 by Huffman is an unwarranted intrusion into the personal economic freedom of public employees. The bill would take away the ability of teachers, engineers, child protection workers, correctional officers, custodians, clerks and other public employees to make voluntary payments from their earnings via safe and secure payroll dues deduction to the labor, employee, or professional organization of their choice. We oppose SB 1968 for the following reasons:
- Payroll deduction is entirely voluntary: Every state and local employee in Texas who chooses to steer a portion of earnings to pay for representation by a labor, employee, or professional organization has done so voluntarily. Public employees in Texas do not have collective bargaining nor is there any mandatory union membership.
- No expense to taxpayers: No state or local funds are required to operate the payroll deduction system. State law explicitly provides that the organization receiving dues is responsible for any administrative costs incurred in processing the deduction. (See, for example, Texas Education Code Section 22.001.)
- Safety and security for employees: Payroll deduction provides a safe and secure means of making payments in timely fashion. The payroll deduction system removes virtually all risk of ID theft and credit card fraud.
- Local authority: SB 1968 curtails the right of local governments to accommodate employee choices for payroll deductions. That right promotes collaboration between employees and local governments.
- State should not pick winners and losers: The state should not endorse or oppose particular viewpoints or organizations through its payroll deduction policies. The state allows literally hundreds of organizations with widely varying views to receive voluntary deductions from state employee paychecks.
- Discrimination among employees without reason: SB 1968 improperly establishes a hierarchy of public employees in which some are deemed worthy of payroll deduction while others are not. All job categories are entitled to respect and the discrimination among categories of employees in this bill has no rational basis.
- Dues cannot be used for political expenditures. Under the Election Code, employee organizations may not use dues dollars for political contributions. Such contributions require formation of a political action committee. All income and expenditures from a PAC must be reported in compliance with state law.