Legislators in Missouri are attempting to enact paycheck protection legislation that would end the practice of using government resources to collect dues from government union members.
House Bill 1617, if passed, would prevent the government from withholding union dues from public employees paychecks without annual written authorization. Some public employees are exempt from the bill, including firefighters, EMTs, police, and registered nurses.
Unfortunately, the Missouri legislature passed a nearly identical paycheck protection bill last year, which was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon (D). And more than likely, if passed, Gov. Nixon will veto the bill again.
However, Missouri’s and nearly every other state constitution requires government expenditures to exclusively serve a public purpose. This means that the government automatically deducting dues from public employee paychecks should violate Missouri’s constitutional amendment known as the “Gift Clause.”
Missouri’s Gift Clause is separated into two parts. First, MO. CONST. art. III, 38(a), “The general assembly shall have no power to grant public money or property, or lend or authorize the lending of public credit, to any private person, association or corporation, excepting aid in public calamity.”
Second, MO. CONST. art. VI, § 23, “No county, city or other political corporation or subdivision of the state shall own or subscribe for stock in any corporation or association, or lend its credit or grant public money or thing of value to or in aid of any corporation, association or individual, except as provided in this constitution.”
In Missouri, both the state and municipal governments are forbidden from granting public funds to private entities for anything other than a public purpose.
Everyone should be able to agree that expending government resources to deduct union dues for labor unions benefits unions and serves their interests, not the public at large. Missouri government receives nothing of value in return for deducting union dues.
Further, the Goldwater Institute in Arizona has recently won a lawsuit under the Gift Clause that dealt with government expenditures to labor unions, a practice known as union release time.
Essentially, union release time pays government employees to perform union business. The Arizona courts declared release time unconstitutional under the Gift Clause because the public expenditures primarily benefited the union and the government did not receive anything in return for the taxpayer dollars.
Similar to union release time, government automatically deducting dues from public employees’ paychecks serve the private interests of unions, a violation of the Gift Clause. Now it is time for Missouri taxpayers to take a stand and legally challenge governments’ illegal use of taxpayer dollars in support of labor unions.
See how Pennsylvania’s Constitution protects workers’ paychecks here.