A majority of likely Oklahoma voters support removing the law that allows state employees the option of having their public employee association dues, formerly known as union dues, withheld from their paycheck, according to a recent SoonerPoll.com study.
The study found that 56 percent of respondents would like to see the state government removed from the employee association dues collection process. By comparison, 32.3 percent of respondents said they opposed removing the provision, while 11.7 percent had no opinion.
In 2001, voters passed Right-to-Work in Oklahoma, which says that an employee has a right to work for a company or a state or local government without having to join a union. Its passage not only made union membership voluntary, but also changed the existing state’s public employee unions, by definition, to that of employee associations.
Current statutes allow state employees the option of having their employee association dues withheld from their paychecks each month. Payroll deductions for employee association dues are voluntary and, if an employee elects to have their dues withheld, the state government is required to comply.
“Voters may see the state collecting employee association dues as a remnant of the old system when union membership and the paying of union dues were mandatory,” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com. “Because it is now voluntary and has been since 2001, voters may view association dues as any other voluntary or personal expense of the employee and thinking it should be treated as such.”
Voluntary payroll deductions for professional organizations in Oklahoma dates back to a 1977 Extraordinary Session of the 36th Oklahoma Legislature. During that session, legislation that provided school district employees the option of having both professional organization dues and political contributions deducted from their paycheck was ratified.
In 1984, the legislature extended voluntary payroll deductions for professional organization dues to the membership of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.
Current Oklahoma law also allows state employees to make voluntary payroll deductions for retirement plans, supplemental insurance plans, approved charities, payments to Oklahoma banks or credit unions, or other state-approved entities.
The state pays for the administrative costs of processing payroll deductions by levying a 2 percent charge on the gross annual premiums for insurance plans and a 1 percent charge on the gross annual payments for retirement plans.
Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello supports removing the state government from the collection employee association dues.
“Many of the associations benefiting from state payroll deductions have lobbyists and PAC’s,” Costello said. “Right now, the partisan political activities of some employees are being subsidized by all employees who have state insurance or retirement plans, and ending payroll deductions for employee associations will remove politics from the paychecks of government workers.”
Additional poll analysis reveals that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats support changing the law. Results show that 58.1 percent of Republicans and 52.4 percent of Democrats support the ending the state’s processing of employee association dues.
The study did find that division grows when results are broken down by political label. Crosstab data indicates that 60.8 percent of conservative respondents support removing the deductions compared to just 40.7 percent of liberal respondents.
SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 512 likely voters from Nov. 17 – Dec. 6. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.