Commentary: Koch brothers and the union-busting Kansas House

The Kansas City StarFebruary 25, 2011 

The Republican union-busting campaign spread to Kansas this week like a disease, with state lawmakers approving a bill that would gut the free-speech rights of union members.

Now that may not be the most even-handed way of explaining what happened in the Kansas House. However, it is the truth. The kind of truth that you only hear when, say, the governor of Wisconsin thinks he’s talking privately to one of his fat-cat donors.

But as there’s no shortage of analysis on Gov. Scott Walker’s frank admissions over the phone to a blogger pretending to be billionaire David Koch, let’s focus, instead, on what political allies of the real Koch brothers have been up to in their home state.

Kansas House Bill 2130 got final approval in that chamber Thursday and now goes to the Senate. It is a transparent attempt to strip already weakened unions of what little political power they have left.

The bill’s supporters — among them the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity — pretend that the legislation is aimed at protecting workers’ rights.

That’s baloney. Kansas is a right to work state. Not only is it illegal to make union membership a condition of employment, union members cannot be forced to provide financial support to political causes and candidates.

No, what HB 2130 does is attempt to limit the political influence of unions, which tend to support Democrats. It denies union members the right to make voluntary payroll deductions to union political action committees.

Oh, sure, union members would be free, like anyone else, to write a check to their union PAC. But a far less painful payroll deduction for average folks, that wouldn’t be allowed.

And this from the same gang that claims any attempt to limit corporate campaign contributions is trampling on free speech rights – of the wealthy, anyway.

Not surprisingly, Kansas union leaders are livid. And they fully expect more is to come. Perhaps even an attempt, similar to the one in Wisconsin, to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights.

“I fully expect to see something,” Jane Carter, head of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, told me.

“I think it’s apparent there’s an all-out war on working families.”

Sure feels that way. Between attempts to unravel the new health care plan, cuts in safety net programs and corporations’ drive to cut pay and benefits, working class Americans have every right to feel threatened.

Little wonder that the only income group supporting the GOP’s union-busting agenda, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, is those making $90,000 or more a year.

But then a lot of things look different on Easy Street.

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