by Joe Davidson

Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) says he wants to empower federal employees by prohibiting the government from automatically deducting union dues from their paychecks.

“This legislation would increase employees’ freedom by allowing them to choose to pay union dues rather than having them taken out of employees’ paychecks before the workers even see the money,” Scott said in a news release.

If the legislation were to become law, it would be “a dagger” to the heart of federal unions, said Matthew Biggs, political and legislative director of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, which represents civilian workers in the Navy, Army Corps of Engineers and NASA.

“That’s union busting at its best,” Biggs said.

Scott casts his legislation as providing more freedom for employees. He calls his bill the “Empower Employees Act.”

Federal employees, however, already have the power to decide if they want the payroll deduction. They indicate their desire for automatic dues deductions by filling out form 1187. That form also tells employees that they also may choose to end payroll deductions. Payroll deductions are not mandatory. And even if they choose to withdraw from automatic dues payments, the unions are still legally obligated to represent them.

Nonetheless, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) who plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate, said “workers should have the right to make their own decisions with their paycheck and to choose whether they want to pay dues to union bosses.”

The Scott bill is another piece of Republican legislation aimed at federal unions. Last week, a House subcommittee held a hearing on legislation introduced by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) that would end the practice of allowing labor organization representatives to do certain union work while on government time. The practice is allowed because those representatives are legally required to represent employees who pay no union dues or fees for union services.

William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said “it is laughable” for Scott to “suggest that this bill increases federal employees’ rights in the workplace. By law, all federal union membership is completely voluntary. No employee can pay union dues without proactively approaching the union and submitting a form to their agency expressing their will to do so. Congressman Scott and his Republican colleagues know this, but they’re not letting that get in the way of busting federal unions.”