Payroll Deducation is About Worker Freedom, Not Politics
Service before self – it’s a way of life for so many public employees like teachers, fire fighters, nurses, and correctional officers. They work long hours, sometimes missing birthdays, holidays, and family dinners. Public employees are a vital part of our community in Ft. Worth and Tarrant County, and they should be able to speak up together for fair wages and working conditions, so they can provide a better life for their families.
But an idea is spreading to make their lives more difficult. The Texas Legislature is debating SB 7, a bill that eliminates public employees’ freedom to pay their professional association or union dues through automatic payroll deduction. Currently first responders, like fire fighters and police, are exempted from the bill, but the special interest groups backing this legislation have made it clear that first responders are next. The only reason they have been exempted is because special interest groups believe it will be easier to pass with this exception. There is no doubt fire fighters and police officers will be included next time.
We oppose SB 7 not only because we know fire fighters will be next on the chopping block, but because we support the teachers, correctional officers, child abuse investigators, and other public employees who would be affected by this legislation. They work hard to make sure Texas is educated, safe, and thriving, and they should be able to spend their paychecks as they choose.
Also, let’s get the facts straight. Payroll deductions cost the government and tax payers nothing. Furthermore, it’s a simple checkbox on a form. There is little, if any, “government involvement” in the process, as J.D. Rimmann claimed in his recent op-ed, a fact that cities and school districts have made clear in testimony before the legislature.
Payroll deduction is one simple thing that makes public employees’ lives easier, whether they are fire fighters, teachers, nurses, or parole officers. There’s a long list of deductions they can voluntarily choose to make, like student loans, charitable donations, health insurance, life insurance, and union or association dues. When you’re working long hours and taking care of a family, having some of your bills deducted automatically from your paycheck is a huge relief. And public employees, like other employees, should be free to spend their paycheck however they see fit.
So why eliminate our payroll deduction choices? The truth is, special interests want to rig the rules and make life harder for all Texans, including public employees, so they won’t have time to speak up for better working conditions, wages, and retirement. The Texas Legislature should invest in the public servants who keep Texas running – the teachers who ensure our kids have a bright future, the child abuse investigators who protect vulnerable children, the correctional officers who keep our communities safe, and the fire fighters and police officers who risk their lives to protect our neighborhoods.
We hope legislators remember that they represent everyday working people, like you and me, and not just special interests looking to strengthen their grip on Texas politics.
Brian Golden is President of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council and Michael Glynn is President of the Fort Worth Fire Fighters Association - Local 440.
~ Source: article submitted to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on August 4th, 2017, as produced by Texas AFL-CIO