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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks on Signing the Executive Order on Employee Rights Concerning Union Dues


Please be seated. And may I just say that we are delighted to see all of you here on this crisp, cool day in the Rose Garden. Before I begin, I'd like to recognize two members of the Cabinet here: Secretary Lynn Martin over here, Secretary of Labor, and then Attorney General Bill Barr, sitting over here in the front. I also want to single out two Congressmen with us today, Bob Walker and Tom DeLay, thank them for being here; Mr. James Stephens, the Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. And also a very special welcome to Harry Beck and his wife, Karan. And fresh from parting the Red Sea yet again on TV last night -- [laughter] -- our old friend Charlton Heston. And I'll have more to say about him in a minute. But thank you for coming all this way.

Today happens to be a very special anniversary. Two hundred and forty-nine years ago today, Thomas Jefferson was born. And there is a renewed spirit of Jeffersonian reform sweeping through this Nation today. It is therefore a fitting occasion for putting into effect new reforms that will protect Americans' fundamental rights against political abuse by special interest groups.

For brilliance, for courage, for passion in the cause of freedom and democracy, no one has ever surpassed Thomas Jefferson. He eloquently stated a principle of fundamental fairness in 1779 when he declared, ``To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.''

Now, not long ago in Philadelphia, I spoke of the wisdom of the Founders on the subject of Government reform. It is this Jeffersonian insight that we reaffirm today with reforms to strengthen the political rights of American workers.

In the Executive order I will sign in just a few minutes, I am directing that companies performing Federal contract work must inform their employees in the clearest possible terms of their legal rights as affirmed in the Supreme Court's landmark Beck decision. This placard displayed here today represents the exact words of the notice that will be placed in workplaces around the Nation. And while this order will directly affect American workers employed by Federal contractors, I want to emphasize that the principles affirmed by the Beck decision are precious to all Americans.

The Beck decision is one of a series of cases protecting American workers from being compelled against their will to pay union or agency dues in excess of what is actually used for collective bargaining purposes and contract administration. Full implementation of this principle will guarantee that no American will have his job or livelihood threatened for refusing to contribute to political activities against his will. The Executive order that I sign today will make it easier for employees of Federal contractors to understand and then exercise their political rights.

The Secretary of Labor is separately proposing a rule clarifying and then bringing up to date requirements for labor organizations to account for how workers' dues are spent. This rule aims to foster union democracy, and it also will have the effect of helping employees protect their Beck rights.

The trial court in the Beck case found, for instance, that in plaintiff Beck's workplace, Harry Beck's workplace, 79 percent of the compulsory dues collected went to purposes unrelated to collective bargaining and contract administration. Our new rule will assist union members in discovering how their dues are being spent. And perhaps most important of all, I expect the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board, to carry out its responsibilities to enforce the principles of the Beck decision.

One of America's most intrepid fighters for individual rights is Charlton Heston. He's been a member of four different labor organizations and, like my predecessor, President Reagan, a president of the Screen Actors Guild. He's given much of himself to put collective bargaining rights into practice. And he's been equally committed to seeing that no company or organization may infringe a worker's individual freedom of conscience. And we are very honored, sir, that you came here today, traveled all across the country as a crusader for individual rights. You are most welcome.

Our new actions to protect individual liberties are important efforts in a larger crusade that I'm waging to reform our system of politics in Government. Institutions of public life, whether the Government, corporations, or unions, should be accountable to their constituents to produce results and then respond to their needs. Working Americans should have the right to decide whether contributing to political parties or candidates, at odds with their beliefs, fulfill that principle and represent the institutional responsibility that we rightfully expect.

In pursuit of the very same principles, accountability and responsibility, I am asking Congress to enact a sweeping reform of campaign financing. And I'm fighting to eliminate, not restrict but eliminate the special interest PAC's, which will stop the millions of dollars in administrative subsidies that corporations and labor organizations now are allowed to channel into their own PAC's.

Time and time again over our constitutional history, protecting universal rights has demanded the lonely courage of individual citizens standing up against powerful organized interests. And I'm especially honored that we have here today such an individual. It took this man 12 years of patient effort to carry his case to vindication in the highest Court of the land. And it is his crusade that brings us together today. So, Harry Beck, thank you, sir, for all that you have done. And I am proud to have you stand with me as I sign this Executive order. Welcome, and well done.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The Executive order is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

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