The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 15, 2012
From the notebook: More about Prop. 32 and states' payroll laws

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

We spoke to about 15 sources for our recent story on how unions would react if voters approve Proposition 32 in last week's Bee. Here are some of the quotes from those interviews that didn't get into the story.

Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, on the scope of Proposition 32 and how it might be challenged:

"Nobody's really dealt with a law that has the breadth of this ... The proposition's definition of 'political activity' is very vague. The idea of legal challenges wouldn't surprise me at all. A lot of questions are going to need to be answered."

Michael J. Reitz, executive vice president of the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, on why political finance reforms don't work:

"If you restrict the flow on money they're just going to find a way to get it there by some other route."

Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association, on why conservative groups pushed for a 1992 state law placing new requirements on union-collected dues:

What was clear that it was written in such a way that there was confusion. It was an attempt to distract us. We had to take time and spend money in court to sort it out."

John Logan, director of labor studies at San Francisco State University on Proposition 32 and the new tactic proponents are employing to promote it:

"This particular initiative, they're trying to frame it as even-handed finance reform. This is unique to California because, If you look at the actual impact, it would be severely limiting impact of unions."

On what can be learned from the experience of unions in other states:

"They sued. There would be a legal challenge here too, and you could see part of (Proposition 32) struck down. If enacted in its entirety, it will have a far greater impact. The absolute prohibition (of spending payroll-deducted dues for political purposes) brings it to an entirely different level."

On Proposition 32's threat is to union influence:

"I don't think the unions are spending more than $40 million to defeat this because they don't think it's real. It's an existential threat to them. They're prepared to spend whatever is necessary ... but they're particularly worried this time around because they don't have the money they had in 2005 and 1998."

Dale Belman of Michigan State University's School of Human Resources and Labor Relations on why the courts might overturn Proposition 32 or any other payroll-deduction law in the wake of recent Supreme Court rulings:

"For the most part, the courts have decided that if you allow (payroll deductions) for United Way, you have to do the same for other causes. You can't pick and choose. ... You can't make unions distinct. That's going to run into constitutional impediments pretty fast. It's very unclear that states have the ability to regulate how organizations spend their money."

Michael Heaney, University of Michigan assistant professor of organizational studies and political science, on the impact of a law that would prevent teachers' unions from collecting dues via payroll deductions:

"It's stirred up the liberal base here in Michigan. ... (It produced) the Protect Our Jobs Initiative (on the Nov. 6 ballot). It has a reasonably good chance of passing."

On why attacks on labor can be a net positive for union leaders:

"These things are not necessarily bad for the unions. It's an opportunity to mobilize the base. It's a chance for them to articulate the value of organized labor. And there's a spillover: They get out voters, and that's simultaneously a vote for other Democratic measures and candidates. There are benefits to unions that come from exercising political muscle."

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


Now on the State Worker column

State Pay Database

This database allows you to search the salaries of California's 300,000-plus state workers and view up to four years of their pay history.


October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Monthly Archives