Republican State House Speaker Straus helped strengthen the public employee unions in Texas.
Among the several disappointments for conservatives that came out of the 2015 Texas state legislature, was the defeat of Senate Bill 1968. The bill would have prohibited public employee unions getting automatic deductions on their dues from public employees’ paychecks. SB 1968 was widely supported by the conservative leaders, the business community, and the GOP, but it was killed by Texas Republican House Speaker Joe Straus’ chief lieutenant, State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana).
While liberal states like Wisconsin have been able to back public employee unions down, in Republican dominated Texas, Big Labor and the Democrats have flexed their political muscle. In process, though, Straus and Cook showed their true colors by siding with the liberals and Democrats over their own party and taxpayers.
Public employee unions have gained prominence in the labor movement as government has grown. Ironically, the labor movement once thought the idea of government unions absurd. George Meany, the former president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O, said in 1955, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”
The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. But government workers don’t generate profits. When government unions negotiate, it is for more tax money. Even F.D.R thought it was “unthinkable and intolerable” for government unions strike, because they would strike against taxpayers.
Government collective bargaining means voters do not have the final say on public policy. Instead their elected representatives must negotiate spending and policy decisions with unions. That is not exactly democratic, a fact that unions once recognized.
Unfortunately, while Wisconsin under Governor Walker has been successful in reasserting the voters’ control over government policy, thanks to Straus, Texas will allow the public employee unions to dictate their will over the voters. This law will also open the door for unions to push their demands on private businesses.
Texas’ business community expected some policy reforms but instead, Straus, along with his liberals Republican supporters, rewarded the Democrats for their help and support in electing him Speaker for a 3rd time. The reforms business leaders and conservatives wanted conflicted with one of the Democrats’ major constituents, labor unions…and so, the taxpayer lost.
Another example of Straus’ siding with Democrats, was Senate Bill 1628 which would have curtailed trial lawyers from preying on unsuspecting homeowners after major storms. The bill had almost 90 supporters in the Texas House, but Straus let the bill and gave trial lawyers a big win. In both cases, traditional GOP donor interests lost to Democratic donor interests because Straus and his Republican allies sided with the Democrats.
If Straus is going to be influenced by pro-labor Democrats, he should heed the advice of the 1959 A.F.L.-C.I.O. Executive Council. They said, “In terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress — a right available to every citizen.”
The unions are stronger in Texas, thanks to Joe Straus. Texas conservatives should remember these examples of Straus’ leadership for the next election.