|LaborTalk: A New, Phony GOP Tactic
By Harry Kelber
When the House finally takes up campaign finance reform, rightwing
Republicans will seek to win approval of their so-called "Worker
Paycheck Fairness Act" (HR 2434), virtually the same legislation that
organized labor was able to defeat in more than 30 states in the past
Their tactic is to offer the anti-labor measure as an amendment to the
Shays-Meehan bill, which would ban contributions of unlimited "soft
money" to political candidates.
Under the bill sponsored by Rep. William F. Gooding (R.-Pa.), which he
introduced last July, unions would be prohibited from spending dues
money on activities other than collective bargaining and contract
authorization without written authorization from their members.
In the name of campaign finance reform, the amendment would bar unions
from holding legislative conferences, publishing educational material,
participating in election campaigns or even making contributions to
worthy social organizations without the written consent of each member.
Moreover, employees could sue unions that violate the act and seek not
only refunds but legal damages.
With members of the House and the Senate frantically competing to
raise funds for their re-election campaigns, they are understandably
reluctant to shut down any source of fund-raising. Yet, because of
public disgust at the enormous sums candidates are raising,
congressional leaders, after months of foot-dragging and evasion, have
finally had to agree to a debate. With at least three other bills
besides the Shay-Meehan measure and a string of amendments to be
considered, it is most unlikely that Congress will come up with
legislation that would slow up, much less stop, the torrent of "soft
money" that is pouring into the campaign coffers of candidates more than
a year before the 2000 election.
It would be ironic--as well as devastating--if all the furor about
campaign finance reform ended with legislation to cripple labor's
ability to engage in political activity, while allowing corporations to
continue to write big checks for candidates with an eye on past and