This vote was on an amendment that would have required postal workers’ unions to obtain written approval from their members before engaging in political activity.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that would allow the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service to take cost-saving measures. Sen. DeMint’s amendment would have required labor unions to use their members’ dues only for the purposes of negotiating pay and benefits. If the union wanted to donate to political candidates or spend money advocating political issues, it would have been required to first obtain written approval from each union member who contributed.
Sen. DeMint argued that his amendment would have protected the rights of postal workers who contribute to their unions but do not necessarily support the union’s favored causes or political candidates.
“Unions are the only organizations in many states that cannot only force people to join but forcibly use their dues for political purposes without the permission of the members. Sixty percent of union members object to their dues being spent for political purposes without their permission,” Sen. DeMint said. “This amendment protects their right to have their dues used in the way they intend them to be used.”
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) argued that Sen. DeMint’s amendment was unrelated to the bill’s goal of improving the finances of the Postal Service, and that it would have interfered with unions’ right to advocate for their members.
“The fact is, no postal employee is forced to join a union. But once one does, the union leadership can guide the policy positions the union supports through the democratic processes within the union,” Sen. Lieberman said. “No postal employee himself or herself is forced to involuntarily support the advocacy or political activities of a union. That is their choice – whether to join it. But once they do, their leadership has the right to participate in a political process.”
Sen. DeMint’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 46-53. Voting “yea” were 46 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 53 Democrats. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to require postal workers’ unions to obtain written approval from their members before engaging in political activity.