The Florida Teaching Profession-Nat. Education Ass’n has appealed a recent ruling by the Fla. Elections Commission that, if upheld, could have far-reaching implications in the way labor unions collect political contributions. The Commission ruled that teacher unions are breaking the law when they give employees forms at work to make campaign donations.
FTP-NEA has halted its statewide practice of asking new members, while at work, to make donations to
political accounts. Campaign solicitations are sent instead to employees at their homes. The union has not refrained from collecting political funds through payroll deductions, which many contend is illegal under the ruling.
Behind the policy is a Commission decision charging the Marion County Education Ass’n, an affiliate of the NEA, with violating a state law designed to avoid corruption. The law, similar to statutes in other states, bans the solicitation of campaign funds in schools and other government offices. The nine-member commission ruled “labor unions are permitted by (law) to solicit contributions for committees of continuous existence, political committees, and candidates from public employees, but are prohibited … from doing so in a building owned by a government entity.” The Commission said political forms are routinely placed in teachers’ mailboxes at school, completed by teachers wishing to join the union and returned to union representatives at school.
Jim Nicholson, the Republican Nat. Committee Chairman said the ruling “sends a clear message that public employees shouldn’t face a political shakedown in the workplace.”
Ron Neahring, of Am. for Tax Reform said the ruling is “potentially extraordinarily significant,” in part because the law that the union is charged with violating is similar to the federal Pendleton Act. That law, Neahring said, also prohibits the solicitation of political contributions in federally owned buildings. “This one case shows how this type of law can be applied to shut down the unions across the country from using taxpayers to subsidize the collection of their political-action money,” Neahring said. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune 6/28/99]