Sizemore group files more initiatives

SALEM - Bill Sizemore's anti-union Oregon Taxpayers United (OTU) has returned with more "paycheck deception" initiatives intent on silencing labor's voice in the political arena by banning the way many unions collect dues.

"He's a three-time loser on this issue, who's desperately trying to keep the money flowing to his failing initiative business," said Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. "This shows again Sizemore's cynical disregard for the will of the voters."

Sizemore is executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United, which has spearheaded numerous anti-union measures during the 1990s aimed at curbing the political power of the public employee unions that persistently oppose his causes.

He is also a principal in a business used by OTU that pays headhunters to collect signatures for ballot measures using money donated by out-of-state organizations or like-minded millionaires.

Last year Sizemore set a record by qualifying six initiatives to the ballot - most of them attacks on unions or local government - and all of which were defeated handily at the polls.

Two of those, Measures 92 and 98, were attempts to change the state Constitution to 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 elected officials - unless authorized in writing every year by each union member.

Measure 98 was more extreme than that, because it banned all payroll deduction for public employees whether they provided written authorization or not.

The initiative assault was a replay of a 1998 campaign in which Sizemore tried to pass Measure 59, a paycheck deception initiative that also would have banned dues checkoff for public employees.

Each election cycle Sizemore has returned with revised versions of his anti-union measures that have been dubbed "paycheck deception" because he tries to sell them as protection for union members from having to pay union dues.

Each new version eliminates loopholes that Sizemore believes caused their defeat. For instance, Measure 59 would have ended the Voters' Pamphlet as we know it because it would have prevented the state from financially supplementing its production.

The rewritten Measure 98 that appeared last year specifically exempted the Voters' Pamphlet from the public funding restriction, but the revised measure restricted the ability of any group that collects dues from payroll deduction (charities and other non-profits) from lobbying elected officials.

The versions filed last month for the 2002 general election tweak the failed ballot measures even further by stipulating that groups using payroll deduction can lobby elected officials, thus taking local charities out of the equation.

As it has done in the past, OTU submits several versions of an initiative in order to get the best possible ballot title. The better the ballot title the easier it is to collect signatures. And the easier it is to collect signatures, the more money signature-collecting companies stand to make.

Last December the Oregon Education Association (OEA) filed a $2.25 million civil lawsuit against OTU and 10 John Does, alleging fraud and racketeering. A former OTU employee, Kelli Highley, has been indicted for forgery in connection with several of the initiative efforts sponsored by OTU. Her criminal case is awaiting trial in Yamhill County.

Nesbitt said special interest groups such as OTU have managed to exploit Oregon's laws for filing and circulating initiatives to turn the process into a marketing and fundraising business. It is for that reason that the Oregon AFL-CIO is pursuing legislation that would protect the initiative petition process from such manipulation and abuse.

The state labor federation is supporting statutory reforms that would defer the awarding of a final ballot title until signatures have been submitted and the initiative has qualified for the ballot.

The AFL-CIO also would like to see constitutional amendments listed and identified separately on the ballot and require ballot titles of revenue-reducing measures to list the services that will be affected.

February 2, 2001 issue

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