Last week I asked Kansas legislators whether the union-organized protests in Wisconsin could happen in Kansas. Representative Jim Ward said: “I don’t think it would happen in Kansas.” While people in Kansas are passionate, we have a tradition of civility, he added.
At today’s session of the Kansas House of Representatives, however, we’ve seen that it can happen. There union members were evicted from the House chamber for their noisy and rude protests.
According to reporting by Martin Hawver: “The Kansas House this morning — for the first time in decades — was interrupted by shouting from the balcony by opponents of the bill that would prohibit employers from providing union political action committee checkoff on paychecks.”
Hawver also reported that the group made “tasteless remarks about female legislators who supported the bill.”
The bill in question prohibits automatically deducting donations to unions’ political action committees from workers’ paychecks. Workers may still contribute, but not automatically.
On Twitter, union supporters and Democrats seemed pleased with the way events unfolded. The Twitter account for kshousedems tweeted: “We are pleased to see so many working men and women in the KS Capitol today, fighting for their rights!” Later the same account called the disruption a manifestation of democracy: “The GOP Speaker’s chief aide says the peaceful assembly of working Kansans in the Capitol is “intimidation.” We call it Democracy.”
“katethedavis” disputed the account reported by Hawver, saying; “Repubs saying the union folks at the Capitol were sexually derogatory? This 24yo female saw nothing but perfect gentlemen.”
Chad Manspeaker was proud, tweeting “We are no longer in the gallery. I couldn’t be more proud of my Union family today.”
This bill does not prohibit unions from accepting contributions for political activity, although it makes it likely that contributions may decline, as union members will have to take active steps to contribute.
So if the Kansas governor and legislature advanced the same actions that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has proposed, could there be large union demonstrations in Kansas? It seems so. In fact, unions have just announced a “Rally to Save the American Dream” to take place on the steps of the Kansas statehouse this Saturday.