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Fifty years ago the state of Oklahoma began collecting money for union dues from the paychecks of public school teachers. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been collected free of charge, to benefit the union activity and political agenda of both the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and the Washington, D.C.-based National Education Association. As a matter of principle, politics do not belong in the paychecks of teachers.

Using the state of Oklahoma to help union officials pick favorable candidates and punish candidates they oppose is not the purpose of government. Union membership and political activity is a right of all citizens. However, there is no right that requires the government to be the bagman for the union bosses. After a half century of perpetuating this nefarious activity, relief is on the horizon.

HB 1749, which passed the Oklahoma House on February 18, promises to separate politics from teachers’ paychecks. Should this proposal pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor, union officials will have to work harder to collect money from their members. Dues collection will still be a quick and simple process; it takes less than five minutes to arrange for union dues to be extracted from a teacher’s personal checking account.

Five minutes! If the OEA cannot earn five minutes of the teacher’s time to privatize this transaction, it is not the taxpayers' problem. Taking government out of the transaction serves to make the union more accountable to the member and gets the taxpayer off the financial hook. HB 1749 is about good government. It's time Oklahoma takes this important step.

[Guest blogger Mark Costello is Oklahoma’s commissioner of labor.]

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