Kansas Workers Fight to Preserve First Amendment Rights

January 24, 2013

Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that would drastically curtail the rights of teachers, firefighters and other public workers to participate in the political process.

A house bill introduced this week would prohibit public-sector unions from setting up automatic paycheck deductions to fund political activity – even if it’s with the employee’s approval.

The bill would also ban public-sector unions from spending voluntary political action contributions on almost any kind of political activity – including lobbying and taking part in referendums. Public sector unions are already prohibited from supporting or opposing candidates for office.

Says Topeka Local 304 Business Manager Paul Lira:

The House is trying to stifle the voices of working families in Kansas.

Local 304 represents both outside line and municipal workers throughout the Topeka area.

On Jan. 23, Lira testified in front of the state House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development committee – which sponsored the legislation – telling its members that:

HB 2023 fixes a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no deception in how we use members’ dues or political contributions.

Lira says Kansas unions play an important role in the legislative process of this historically Republican state, promoting issues of workplace safety, fair pay and workers’ rights.

He says:

While we haven’t always seen eye to eye with Republican lawmakers, traditionally there has been a strong moderate wing of the party that understands the important role of unions in Kansas.

But that changed over the summer. Right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers and Washington, D.C. – based antiunion organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth spent millions of dollars on radio and TV ads to oust moderate Republicans during last August’s primaries.

Former Senate President Steven Morris – one of the Republicans who lost his primary to a conservative challenger – told the Huffington Post that the Koch brothers, who helped fund the campaign of his opponent, are using Kansas as a testing ground for their ideological agenda.

He says:

They said it will be an ultraconservative utopia. It depends on your definition of utopia.

A companion bill has been introduced in the senate. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has not taken a public position.

Lira says the so called “paycheck protection” bill, which is sponsored by Koch brother funded lawmakers – is only one part of a national campaign to roll back unions and quash workers’ rights.

He says:

It’s the same stuff we saw Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. It’s all part of a nation-wide anti-union agenda.

Click here to tell Kansas legislators to vote no on HB 2023.


Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user ensign_beedrill