Compulsory Union Dues, 

Democrats and Abortion


Compulsory Union Dues, 

Democrats and Abortion

By John Mallon

The Daily Oklahoman, April 15, 2000

Many thanks to Victor Gorin for his response to my column on the Catholic Church and the Democratic party. He raises some important issues that space didn't allow me to address in the original. He advises me to check the facts and I have.

Bill Clinton, on his first full day in office, kicked the Catholic Church in the teeth by overturning all executive protection for the unborn put in place or left in place by his predecessors. This is widely known and understood among pro-life activists and to a lesser extent among Catholics in general.

But Clinton also did something else as far as labor unions go. Clinton revoked two executive orders by President Bush which had assured certain hard-won legal rights of employees working for employers with federal contracts.

As Gorin said, 'Union workers in a state without right to work have the legal right to have the portion of their dues used for political purposes returned to them upon request.' This is true—but enforcement of this right has proven so elusive as to make the 'right' a virtual dead letter.

The precedent was set in 1988 by the case of Communications Workers v. Beck, in which the Supreme Court found the union had expended only 21 percent of union funds on collective bargaining matters. A lot of the remaining 79 percent went into the coffers of Democratic party candidates. Ask any number of friends in unions if they are aware of this right that they have—to gain an accounting of how their money is spent and get the political share refunded.

Then, ask them why not.

It's not for lack of trying. Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau Wynn had the mandatory workplace posters informing workers of their rights printed to include information about this right and placed them in Oklahoma workplaces—only to be ordered by Attorney General Drew Edmondson to have them removed and replaced without the paragraph describing Beck. Why would he do that?

There seems to be an interest in Democratic circles to keep the working people whose money supports these unions from knowing their rights. At least this one. The enforcement mechanism to uphold a worker's Beck rights is either a federal district court action for reimbursement (like Beck itself) or filing with the National Labor Relations Board for a reimbursement from the union. To put it mildly, efforts to give this right teeth have been nonexistent since Clinton himself revoked Bush's prior executive order.

Presently, there exists no efficient enforcement mechanisms to uphold the right and the major unions have opposed creation of any mechanisms to protect this right.

In the Catholic Church we have an expression referring to the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. This principle is often abused by people seeking to avoid teachings they find unpleasant, but that is beside the point. Certain moral cases emerge in which the cut-and-dried letter of the law conflicts with the very reason the law exists.

In the present case we have unions, originally designed to uphold workers' rights, in effect, denying workers' rights by denying knowledge of the rights and proper avenues to enforce them.

Some Catholics defend their adherence to the abortion-obsessed Democratic party by reference to an undefined concept of 'social justice,' which is clearly not being served in this context. If they don't recognize that the poorest, most oppressed, vulnerable, voiceless group of all is the unborn, they really are in Rip van Winkle Land.

Legal abortion is one of the gravest social injustices in history - and many of the dollars supporting it in the public policy arena are coming from labor unions whose members feel caught in an unnecessary dilemma between their faith and feeding their families. So it appears to come down to money. Blood money.

With such efforts by Democrats and union leaders to keep their supporters and constituents in the dark regarding their rights within their own unions it's no wonder there is a clamor for a state right-to-work system free of these shenanigans


The Catholic Church has always defended labor unions. Pope John Paul II's support for solidarity in Poland helped bring down communism. But what is going on here defeats the purpose. To quote the American bishops on citizenship: 'Too many of our leaders seem to focus more on seeking campaign contributions than the common good.'

Reprinted with permission.