Anti-union forces are already mounting new attacks on labor for 2000

SALEM - Although the dust has barely settled on the 1998 November general election, anti-union forces are already mounting new attacks on labor for 2000.

"You could call it the full-employment act for Bill Sizemore," said Irv Fletcher, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, referring to five new initiative petitions Sizemore, the defeated gubernatorial candidate and director of Oregon Taxpayers United, filed Nov. 17 with the secretary of state's office.

Sizemore also owns a business that contracts with political groups to collect petition signatures.

Four of 15 initiatives Sizemore has filed are direct attacks on labor unions.

The most serious is Initiative 25, a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban deductions from an employee's paycheck if any portion of it is used for a political purpose without the employee's written permission.

There is no mention of union dues in Initiative 25, but that's the intended target, Fletcher said. "It looks very similar to California's Proposition 226," said Fletcher. "It doesn't just target public employees."

The initiative would require union members who have dues deducted from their paychecks to sign annual written permission slips if any portion of those dues is used "for a political purpose."

A political purpose is described as any in-kind contributions and pass-through contributions through an affiliated organization used to lobby an elected official or spent collecting signatures for initiative petitions or discouraging electors from signing initiative petitions, or spent on direct mail and/or purchasing advertisements that support a political candidate or ballot measure.

Many local unions have agreements with employers to deduct union dues from paychecks. Most locals are affiliated with either the Oregon AFL-CIO, a regional central labor council or building trades council, and those umbrella organizations typically lobby lawmakers, as well as sponsor and oppose legislation.

California voters turned down a "paycheck deception" measure similar to Sizemore's proposal and in Nevada the State Supreme Court ruled a similar measure unconstitutional.

Union political action committees spent more than $4 million in the last election cycle to defeat a Sizemore-sponsored ballot measure (59) that would have prohibited dues checkoffs by members of public employee unions and eliminated the popular Voters' Pamphlet.

But Sizemore has come right back with another version of Measure 59 - the only difference this time is a reference that the proposed new initiative (I-24) would not impact the Voters' Pamphlet.

Sizemore's Initiative 23 would repeal voter-approved (and labor-sponsored) Measure 63, which now requires all ballot measures that impose a two-thirds "super- majority" to pass future measures, must themselves be passed by a super-majority vote. I-23 would amend that, requiring only a simple majority vote on measures that impose a super-majority.

Another initiative (I-26) would require the contracting out of government services "if doing so would save taxpayers 15 percent or more." Calculations would have to include public employee compensation, occupancy costs of all buildings and other real estate using market rental rates.

The State Elections Division is in the process of reviewing the initiatives to make sure they comply with the "one subject only" rule. Once certified, Sizemore can begin gathering signatures to qualify the initiatives for the ballot in 2000.

The Elections Division is seeking public input on the one subject question for all five initiatives. Comments must be received no later than Wednesday, Dec. 9.

For more information or to obtain a copy of the initiative petitions, call Colette Burghart at (503) 986-1518.

December 4, 1998 issue

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