Measures 92 and 98 qualify for state ballot
"Passing both measures will be a home run, but passing either one of the two measures gets us most of the way there."
- Bill Sizemore in a July 1999 letter raising funds for Measures 92 and 98.
It's official. Bill Sizemore's attacks on organized labor's right to participate in the political process will be on the ballot this November as Measures 92 and 98.
Sizemore is the director of the anti-union Oregon Taxpayers United who also moonlights as a signature collector for mostly right-wing groups that sponsor initiative petitions.
This year he set a record by qualifying six measures to the ballot - most of them attacks on unions or government entities.
Both Measures 92 and 98 are constitutional amendments that would make it illegal for unions to use dues collected through payroll deduction for any type of political activity - from supporting or opposing candidates or ballot measures to lobbying school board members or other elected officials - unless authorized in writing every year by each member of the union.
In fact, Measure 98 goes even further than that as it forbids public employees from even providing written authorization. Practically all government employers deduct union dues from workers' paychecks.
Sizemore has used deception in drafting the ballot titles and language in both measures. He actually submitted several versions of the initiatives in order to get the best possible wording. So, on the surface, Measure 98 seems benign. The ballot title reads: "Prohibits using public resources for political purposes; limits payroll deductions." It explains that a "yes" vote would "prohibit using public resources to collect or help collect political funds."
Measure 92 says basically the same thing: "Prohibits payroll deductions for political purposes without specific written authorization."
That doesn't sound so bad.
But it is.
"Sizemore has packaged Measure 92 as a proposal for authorization, but the only thing he wants to authorize is labor's silence," said Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, which is coordinating the campaign to defeat both 92 and 98. "These are attacks on the rights of organizations to speak with a collective voice and to participate in the political process on behalf of those they represent."
Nesbitt said for years organized labor has been the leader in obstructing numerous Sizemore and national Right-to-Work Committee initiatives. (The Right-to-Work Committee is a national organization created decades ago to weaken or eliminate unions.)
Organized labor also has been instrumental in passing a few measures of its own, including the minimum wage increase in 1996 that Big Business abhorred.
So, what better way to get rid of a despised opponent than by writing into the state constitution laws that forbid it from participating in the political arena? Passage of Measures 92 and 98 would do just that by eliminating the largest roadblock Sizemore and the national Right-to-Work Committee have to contend with: Organized labor. "This is the first step in a nationwide move to make Oregon a right-to-work state," Nesbitt said at a meeting of union activists strategizing ways to defeat the measures. "We're operating as if we're in strike build-up mode," said Tricia Bosak of the Oregon Education Association, which is part of that coalition.
Several civic organizations, non-profits and charities have teamed up with AFL-CIO to oppose Measures 92 and 98. They include the Oregon Parent-Teachers Association, Oregon Common Cause, the Gray Panthers, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, United Seniors of Oregon, the Pacific Rivers Council and the Community Alliance of Tenants.
As written, Measure 92 could affect non-profit agencies, credit unions, insurance companies and any group that deducts funds from wages.
In order to be allowed to participate in political activities, organizations that receive payroll-deducted funds would have to segregate those funds from all other funds and take care not to use those funds for any form of political advocacy. Only payroll-deducted funds that are properly authorized by employees for political advocacy, separately collected, separately held and separately accounted for, could be used for political purposes.
If dues or contributions are collected as one line item on a paycheck and/or as part of one aggregation of funds by an employer and/or are forwarded to the recipient organization in one check or in one bank transfer, all such dues and contributions would be barred from use for political advocacy unless each and every dues payment and contribution was covered by a prior written authorization.
If even one member out of 100 fails to fill out the form, a union can't take political positions on behalf of the other 99, Nesbitt explained. "Even writing a letter to a legislator would be treated as a political expenditure by these measures," he said. Union officers and staffers also would be prohibited from collecting signatures for ballot measures, from developing and distributing fliers opposing a ballot measure or politician, talking to school boards and much, much more.
How union officials would determine the time spent on political activity for those who have authorized it would be burdensome and an accounting nightmare for treasurers and trustees.
Measures 92 and 98 are atop labor's top political priorities this year, but several other initiatives sponsored by Sizemore and health club millionaire Don McIntire are bright on the radar screen. The "triple threat" are anti-government initiatives that would: * Cut state income taxes by about $1 billion a year (Measure 91).
* Prohibit most new or increased taxes or fees without super-majority voter approval (Measure 93).
* Require that teacher pay be linked to student achievement and eliminate seniority in collective bargaining agreements (Measure 95).
The Oregon AFL-CIO has joined forces with Governor John Kitzhaber, Labor Commissioner Jack Roberts and Intel chief executive officer Jim Johnson to launch a broad-based coalition to defeat these three measures.
Measure 92 would hamstring unions
For an example of how Measures 92 would hamstring unions and other organizations, just look back earlier this year when the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries was considering an administrative rule change that would have exempted some employers from providing employees mandatory meal and rest breaks at work and another to ease child labor laws.
The Oregon AFL-CIO and several local unions opposed both the proposals and they responded with letters and appearances at several public hearings. Their lobbying efforts were enough to kill the meal proposal and drastically modify the child labor law.
But if Measure 92 was in the constitution, union officers would have been barred from lobbying the Bureau of Labor unless written authorization had been given by members who have union dues deducted from their paychecks.
© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.