A Few Thoughts on Wisconsin and Unions

At the risk of losing some of my libertarian street cred, I have to say that I feel a lot of sympathy for the public employee members in Wisconsin. Even if you think that their salaries and benefits are excessive, those benefits and wages were contractually agreed to by their employers, and I’m sure that in many cases people have planned their retirements on the assumption that these contracts would be honored.

On the other hand, if having public employee unions leads to workers receiving promises of future pensions and benefits that can’t or won’t be met, then that could be a reason to reconsider whether public employee unions are such a great idea going forward. The Church recognizes the right of workers to unionize, but this right is fundamentally based not on any the supposedly good consequences that unions have for workers, but rather as an application of the right of private association. As John Paul II noted in Centesimus Annus, (“the Church’s defence and approval of the establishment of what are commonly called trade unions [is] certainly not because of ideological prejudices or in order to surrender to a class mentality, but because the right of association is a natural right of the human being, which therefore precedes his or her incorporation into political society.”

I’m willing to accept correction on this, but it seems to me that if the right to unionization is based in the right to association, then it would seem that the union relationship ought to be voluntary for all the parties involved. Forcing workers to join a union or forcing an employer to deal with a union on certain terms strikes me as being contrary to people’s association rights, not a fulfillment of them. In the case of public employee unions, the government is the employer, and so should have a wide latitude to decide to what extent it is willing to bargain with unions and to what extent it isn’t.

80 Responses to A Few Thoughts on Wisconsin and Unions

  • Yeah, obviously, I can’t blame the Wisconsin unions for not wanting to see their benefits reduced. Given the choice, I’d rather not see my benefits reduced.

    My only beef with unions is when they secure legislation which requires all workers in a given company or line of work (like being a public school teacher) to join whether they like it or not. This seems like a pretty clear violating of one’s human right to association, in that it forces association against one’s will. And, of course, with the idea that an employer has to reach an agreement with a given union, rather than simply forgoing to employ their members.

  • Which is why laws which mandate union membership may be contrary to Catholic Social teaching.

  • With the collapse of our economy I lost my job after working for 28 years. I was close to retirement and had to take that proverbial haircut in what my retirement was suppose to be. I was also married to an unionized auto worker and saw in my own employment a union shop dismantle itself because of unrealistic demands, which in my mind was the union committed suicide. This proved to me that unions are needed at certain times and then they need a new model such as what auto workers contracts are moving into a profit share approach. In the public sector some unions go into arbitration where they have to prove the government entity can afford to pay what they demand.
    State governments have to balance their budgets by law and we operate under the rule of law. When the government goes into debt which they knowingly cannot pay back borders or moral and ethical issues.
    In Michigan a JUDGE ruled that the state had to lay off teachers because of this issue and it will raise the class size to 60 pupils. I think it is a moral issue to put in place policies to make sure this does not happen.

  • This is “one big love triangle.” The gov employee unions are in bed with the politicians. The taxpayer is (can I say this?) cuckolded.

    A significant amount of public employee union dues (100%, indirectly paid by TAXPAYERS) is used to help elect mostly democrat (nearly 100% pro-abortion) candidates who repay the selfsame campaign contributions (from taxes) with more taxpayer money in better benefits and higher wages.

    They seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that they have run out of other people’s money. That is an economical issue, not a moral issue.

    Also, consider the 9.4% unemployment and 17% underemployment rates among private sector employees compared to the near 0% rates among gov employees.

  • One has to distinguish unions in private enterprise from unions in public service. If public servants do not like their wages and such they can vote for different elected officials; they already have a say. There is something, well unsettling, in the idea of public servants organizing against the public in a democracy.

    In private enterprise a union that becomes a parasite (e.g., instead of fighting for the 40 hour work week and a living wage, it fights for fork lift drivers to make six-figure salaries and life-time health insurance) competition will kill the host, and there will be other companies (that never drove their employees to unionize, or that have reasonable unions) that will step in the void to provide goods, services, and jobs. There is no such arrangement in government for parts of government that can not be privatized. In fact, as others have pointed out, it becomes a situation where the elected officials get votes and money from the union and then rewards the union with more pay–they are both parasites on the common citizen and the only limit is the ability to borrow money to be paid by, or to bankrupt, our children and grand children.

  • My late father worked in a plant almost all of his working life where membership in the Allied Industrial Workers was mandatory. Other than taking dues money and giving sweet heart jobs for union bosses he could never see what earthly good the union did for him and his fellow workers. If membership in the union had been optional he would have left it in a heartbeat.

  • Just another reason why our treasures ought to be stored up in heaven, where they won’t rot.

  • You shouldn’t have to join a union but I think it’s perfectly permissible to insist that non-members pay for free riding.

    Also, I bought the whole idea that public sector unions are bad but I’m not sure why that must be. There is an effective check on public sector unions. If Gov. Walker can do what he’s doing now, he can certainly stand up to unreasonable union demands.

    On a related note, how do those who support Lila Rose’s deceptions feel now that Gov. Walker has been the victim? It’s still fair game? Is this the world we wanna live in? Where nothing is confidential?

  • Well stated.

    Right of free association prohibits the government from prohibiting unions or union membership, provided the unions are freely joined by each member as an option which he may voluntarily leave or take without fear of consequences being imposed on him as a result of the decision.

    Right of free association likewise prohibits the government from requiring that employers, including the government itself, deal solely with the unions, or with a particular union, for obtaining a worker to fill a particular job.

    I suppose the only real question for libertarians, then, is this: Does a private (not government) employer have the right to not hire, or even to fire, persons purely for being/becoming members of a union?

    In short, the right of free association exists, and the government has no just authority to penalize you (that is, to initiate force against you) for your association with a union. But if I don’t hire you or if I fire you, that isn’t an instance of me exercising force against you. It’s merely me refusing to associate with you. (I am, for the purposes of this example, assuming that I am not a company owner in a company town where the company, for all intents and purposes, is the government.)

    So, do I have a right as an employer to not associate with you, or to cease associating with you, because of who I just found out you’ve been associating with?

    My inclination is to say, “Yes, I have that right, provided I’m not the government, or in a position of such monopolistic power that my refusing to associate with you constitutes a de-facto exercise of force against you.”

  • RR:

    Why should it be considered “free riding” if non-union members are hired by the same employer, for the same jobs, under different terms (since their terms were not negotiated by the union)?

  • In the late 40′s lots of plants were moving south to right to work states.
    I watched a union member family of five move from Ohio to Tenn. to work in a plant which went non-union. He was told to strike and walk the picket line for less than half pay. After nearly two years with his family living on beans and biscuits he finally gave up. Sticking with the union rather than going non-union and providing for his family taught ME a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

  • Is it injust that we have “better benefits and higher wages” at this particular moment?

    I would suggest that a down economy naturally lends itself to stronger wages and more certain benefits in precisely those sectors that enjoy weaker wages and declining benefits during periods of significant economic growth. There seems to be an inverse relationship to the attractriveness of government jobs and the attractiveness of private – sector employment.

  • By “injust,” I meant “unjust.”

  • RC, because the terms won’t be different. If employers don’t extend the same benefits they negotiated with unions to non-members, non-members can just walk in to the boss’s office and demand identical terms and they’ll very likely get them. They reap the benefits of unionization with minimal effort.

  • “If employers don’t extend the same benefits they negotiated with unions to non-members, non-members can just walk in to the boss’s office and demand identical terms and they’ll very likely get them.”

    Why? If I were an employer I’d give better terms to my non-union employees in hopes their ranks would swell.

    The free rider argument in regard to unions has always struck me as weak. The truth is that there has always been a substantial segment of workers who do not wish to belong to unions, and the closed shop and mandatory deduction of dues is the union response to their unpopularity among more than a few of the workers they purport to represent. If unions were as popular as their mythology represents, neither the closed shop nor mandatory union dues deductions would ever have been necessary.

  • RR:

    So you’re saying that the non-members can only achieve the better benefits by doing a little research into the salaries and benefits of other folk in their industry, and engaging in their own negotiations.

    But isn’t that what everyone does to obtain a raise? Anyone with a little initiative and gumption, that is. Again, not something it’s just to call “free-riding.”

    But whether it is or isn’t, it seems to me that the principle of free-association prohibits government from requiring by law that people pay a fee for not being in a union.

    To say that the government may do that, is to say that I and a cavalcade of my fellow citizens may, with just moral authority, pull out a weapon and, while threatening you with violence if you don’t accede to my demands, take your property from you to punish you for not associating with the folk with whom we wish you to associate. Not very free, that.

  • Aw, folks beat me to the “being forced to PAY union dues when you don’t want to be a member, especially when you’re not a member, is also a violation of the right to associate.”

  • RC, non-members have a much easier time negotiating a raise when the union has already done the heavy lifting for its members. That’s just common sense.

    As for whether it violates free association, I see it like the debate over the constitutionality of the health care mandate. An individual mandate may be unconstitutional but taxing and spending to the same ends is not. Likewise, forcing everyone to pay union dues may violate free association but employers can pass union costs on to their employees regardless of membership.

  • “Likewise, forcing everyone to pay union dues may violate free association but employers can pass union costs on to their employees regardless of membership.”

    Why in the world would they do that?

  • I’m not sure how serious the free rider issue really is. Other countries (e.g. Germany) mandate open shops and it doesn’t seem to be a problem. If it came down to it, a union could always write it into their contracts that they get x percent more than nonunionized workers, adjusting for various factors (this sort of thing is typical in Hollywood, where star A wants to make sure that he is always paid more than star B, and so forth).

    The biggest violation of the right to associate in American labor law, it seems to me, is that it prohibits so-called company unions (in which workers and employees are part of the same organization). When Church documents speak of the right to unionize, most of the time they are explicit in including associations of employers and workers as part of this right. Yet in America this is illegal.

  • I don’t know much about Germany but from what I read it seems like their high rate of union membership is primarily a cultural phenomena.

    If unions members contract to get x percent more than non-members, you’d get a de facto closed shop.

  • Don, I don’t know if employers would voluntarily pass unions costs on to employers regardless of membership but they can be made to. Or the government can bank roll unions. Point is there are ways to make non-members pay without violating the right to free association so I don’t find the “I have a right not to pay union dues” all that convincing an argument against closed shops.

  • “Point is there are ways to make non-members pay without violating the right to free association so I don’t find the “I have a right not to pay union dues” all that convincing an argument against closed shops.”

    RR if I am forced to pay for a private organization I do not wish to support that certainly does violate my right to free association. The closed shop is a classic example of forced association. The decline of unionism in the private sector has been caused by many factors, but I think the coercive aspects of unionism left a bad taste in the mouth of many workers towards unions.

  • If unions members contract to get x percent more than non-members, you’d get a de facto closed shop.

    I actually don’t have a problem with a closed shop with its what the employer and union agree to. On the other hand, if a business wants to have an open shop that also should be allowed.

  • If it came down to it, a union could always write it into their contracts that they get x percent more than nonunionized workers, adjusting for various factors

    My first reaction is to wonder why anyone would agree to this, but then it strikes me that “adjusting for various factors” might cover a lot. For instance, unions often seem to want to have compensation determined primarily by seniority and very expensive benefits (very low deductible insurance, guaranteed pension benefit, etc.) To someone with a non-union frame of mine, like me, who might also be planning to move on out or up into non-unionized roles fairly quickly, it would actually be more attractive to work non-union with a slightly lower total comp + benefits package if my package leaned more toward salary and less towards benefits, and if I could get pay and bonuses based on performance rather than seniority. For someone intent on plodding along and watching the clock for thirty years at the same company, working union might be more attractive.

  • Folks who disagree with the political leaning of the union– or who have a moral objection to the union at all– might take lower pay; those who have insurance from another source might jump at the chance to get more pay over redundant benefits, or to choose their own benefits elsewhere.

    The obvious response to a union contract that says that the union workers will always get a set amount more than the non-union workers would be for those who don’t want to join Union 1 to form Union 2.

  • I said I’d stay away, but this one begs a response. Greedy labor unions killed most of the good daily newspapers in NYC, where I grew up and suffered with millions of other citizen-taxpayers forced to suffer through countless teacher, transit, garbage, and other government worker strikes and impossible wage and other demands that sent a once-great city in a steep decline from which it never recovered.

    I’ll never forget the Daily News headline back in the 1970′s when New York sought help from the federal government: “Ford to City: Drop Dead!”

    The headline today should be: “Wisconsin to Unions: Shut Up!”

  • Stick around Joe. You are a worthy sparring partner!

  • Thanks, Don. All forgiven?

  • In that case, allow me to observe:

    It’s hard to have much respect for the collective intelligence of the American people when the majority do not seem to know the difference between “STOP” and “YIELD.”

    : )

  • Darwin,

    You ask why an employer would ever agree to pay his unionized workers more than his one union ones. Of course, if an employee did not wish to do so he would not have to. A rational employer, though, might be willing to pay union members more if and to the extent that union membership was able to make unionized workers more productive. For example, unions might provide a vehicle for more efficient dispute resolution, might increase worker morale and decrease shirking, and could provide a mechanism for increasing the skills of union members. Stephen Bainbridge has some thought on this here.

    In the current institutional environment, the incentives are for unions and management to each try and grab as much benefit as they can and to provide as little as possible in return. In fact, this form of unionism is so ingrained that it can be hard to imagine unions behaving in any other way. But if union relationships had to be voluntary I think a lot of these incentives would be reversed.

  • A significant amount of public employee union dues (100%, indirectly paid by TAXPAYERS) is used to help elect mostly democrat

    Neither in federal elections nor Wisconsin elections may union dues be used to make contributions to candidates. Contributions come from a separate political action committee of which no union member is required to give an dmost do not. (Even though all union members, PAC givers and non-PAC givers get to vote on endorsements).

    i don’t know much about Germany but from what I read it seems like their high rate of union membership is primarily a cultural phenomena.

    It is largely due to the strong role the Catholic Church played in promoting trade unionism and union membership, along maybe with the intercession of German labor union leader Blessed Nikolas Gross.

    I actually don’t have a problem with a closed shop with its what the employer and union agree to. On the other hand, if a business wants to have an open shop that also should be allowed.

    The closed shop is illegal and has been since the Taft-Hartley Act.

    A Union Shop is only permissible with the agreement of both management and labor. Union shops are not permitted among federal goverment employees or in “Right-to-Work” states.

    The Open Shop is perfectly legal and exists except where a union shop has been agreed to per above.

    if I am forced to pay for a private organization I do not wish to support that certainly does violate my right to free association. The closed shop is a classic example of forced association.

    The Union Shop under the NLRA is balanced with the Union’s duty of fair representation. Full disclosure: I am a union representative in an open shop. If I fail to give those employees who are not union members the same level of service I give those who pay dues, I can be fined, fired or go to jail. I have never heard one conservative or libertarian make a single comment of the unfairness of this.

    Labor has long said they are happy to give up the opportunity to negotiate for an Union Shop if it is then free to only represent those who join the union. In fact, during the Bush Administration, a union tried to get the NLRB to sauy it could do that. Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Bush Administration successfully filed objections.

  • Kurt-
    are they non-members, or ‘core members’?

    It’s a little disingenuous to go from someone saying that union dues are used to elect democrats to talking about direct PAC contributions. The purple shirted thugs of late are a big example of this “help.”

  • Kurt,

    If I fail to give those employees who are not union members the same level of service I give those who pay dues, I can be fined, fired or go to jail. I have never heard one conservative or libertarian make a single comment of the unfairness of this.

    FWIW, I believe I commented to you within the last couple weeks that this strikes me as unfair. As someone against unions as they currently exist in the US, if there were a union operating at the company I worked for I would not only not want to have to be a member of pay “fair share”, but I would also not want to have the union deal with any grievance I might have, not want to have my employment constricted by the union contract, etc. (I also don’t won’t an employer to be able to hand off it’s HR duties to a union, as it gives them too much plausible deniability.)

    So at least, now you can say that at least one conservative or libertarian has agreed with you this is unfair. :-)

  • Neither in federal elections nor Wisconsin elections may union dues be used to make contributions to candidates. Contributions come from a separate political action committee of which no union member is required to give an dmost do not. (Even though all union members, PAC givers and non-PAC givers get to vote on endorsements).

    Also, I believe this is a tad disingenuous in that unions can easily advocate in an election without giving money directly to a candidate. That’s like suggesting the NRA is a non-partisan organization.

  • are they non-members, or ‘core members’?

    Non-members. Where management and labor have agreed to a union shop, employees still have the option to quit the union and only pay an agency fee. The agency fee payers still have all the rights to equal service from the union and can sue if they feel they have not been served.

    In an open shop, those who pay no dues or agency fees still have all of the rights to equal service. Now, you may ask “yes, Kurt, but who would be enough of an a**h@@@ to willfully not join the union, pay a cent of dues, and still demand union representation and take action if they did not get it?” You would be amazed. My union lawyers make me take hours of training every year to make sure I don’t get a DFR complaint lodged against me.

    I believe this is a tad disingenuous in that unions can easily advocate in an election without giving money directly to a candidate.

    Indpendent expenditures on behalf of a candidate using union dues money is also illegal in federal and Wisconsin elections. Not only can a union not use dues money to buy a TV ad saying “vote for X” but it would be illegal for a union to spend dues money to give members a t-shirt with the union name on it to go to a campaign rally.

    So at least, now you can say that at least one conservative or libertarian has agreed with you this is unfair

    Should I hold my breath for the second?

    And rather than constantly reading from conservatives attacks on unions for the union shop, should I have any hope that these attacks would be retired and instead conservatives would focus on attacking the Chamber of Commerce for their position and demand that unions be allowed to be organized that simply represent their voluntary dues paying members? The AFL-CIO has been for this since Blessed Lane Kirkland. Its nothing new on the labor side.

    And once we resolve that, maybe you can give me a defense of the conservative position on the prohibition of secondary boycotts?

  • Indpendent expenditures on behalf of a candidate using union dues money is also illegal in federal and Wisconsin elections. Not only can a union not use dues money to buy a TV ad saying “vote for X” but it would be illegal for a union to spend dues money to give members a t-shirt with the union name on it to go to a campaign rally.

    Well, given your expertise on the topic, maybe you can explain a bit for those of us who only read the news stories. It’s common knowledge that unions are some of the biggest spenders in elections dealing with issues they’re concerned about. Are you saying this is entirely PAC money and dues are never used for it?

    Also, if this is the case, why to unions often include positions on topics having nothing to do with their areas of work in their union resolutions? For instance, a public school teacher friend of mine was complaining to me recently that the NEA and OEA both specifically endorse abortion and birth control in their resolutions. If unions are not going around advocating in favor of various political issues, why are they spending resources adopting resolutions on these topics?

  • Non-members. Where management and labor have agreed to a union shop, employees still have the option to quit the union and only pay an agency fee. The agency fee payers still have all the rights to equal service from the union and can sue if they feel they have not been served.

    According to the NLRB link that I provided:
    The NLRA allows employers and unions to enter into union-security agreements, which require all employees in a bargaining unit to become union members and begin paying union dues and fees within 30 days of being hired.

    Even under a security agreement, employees who object to full union membership may continue as ‘core’ members and pay only that share of dues used directly for representation, such as collective bargaining and contract administration. Known as objectors, they are no longer full members but are still protected by the union contract. Unions are obligated to tell all covered employees about this option, which was created by a Supreme Court ruling and is known as the Beck right.

    An employee may object to union membership on religious grounds, but in that case, must pay an amount equal to dues to a nonreligious charitable organization.

    More than 20 states have banned union-security agreements by passing so-called “right to work” laws. In these states, it is up to each employee at a workplace to decide whether or not to join the union and pay dues, even though all workers are protected by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union. These states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

    Can you provide the text showing where you’re required to give union representation to these folks on the same level as full union members? The site search is borderline useless.

    Indpendent expenditures on behalf of a candidate using union dues money is also illegal in federal and Wisconsin elections. Not only can a union not use dues money to buy a TV ad saying “vote for X” but it would be illegal for a union to spend dues money to give members a t-shirt with the union name on it to go to a campaign rally.

    Again, you’re either missing the point or dodging.

  • Stop holding your breath Kurt. I think that’s unfair. I also think it’s unfair to require non-union employees to fork over even a minimal of funds to the union.

    In these states, it is up to each employee at a workplace to decide whether or not to join the union and pay dues, even though all workers are protected by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union.

    And there’s the rub. It may be in some (or possibly many) instances that a non-union worker is “protected” by the union’s agreement. However, that means the non-union employee and the company are also restricted by the union agreement. This strikes me as unfair too.

  • Humphrey v. Moore, 375 U.S. 335, 55 LRRM 2031 (1964).

    MacKnight v. Leonard Morse Hospital, 828 F.2d 48,126 LRRM 2259, 2261 (1st Cir. 1987).

    http://www.teamster.org/content/duty-fair-representation (last item)

    From the Federal Labor Relations Authority (bolding is mine):

    THE DUTY OF FAIR REPRESENTATION UNDER THE STATUTE

    A. The Section 7114(a)(1) Duty of Fair Representation
    Section 7114(a)(1) of the Statute provides:
    § 7114. Representation rights and duties.

    (a)(1) A labor organization which has been accorded exclusive recognition is the exclusive representative of the employees in the unit it represents and is entitled to act for, and negotiate collective bargaining agreements covering, all employees in the unit. An exclusive representative is responsible for representing the interests of all employees in the unit it represents without discrimination and without regard to labor organization membership.

    The obligation set forth in the second sentence of section 7114(a)(1) of the Statute is commonly referred to as an exclusive representative’s duty of fair representation. The Authority has interpreted this section to require an exclusive representative to represent the interests of all bargaining unit employees: 1) without discrimination; and 2) without regard to whether the employee is a dues paying member of the exclusive representative. The duty of fair representation is grounded in the principle that when a union attains the status of exclusive representative, it must use that power to fairly and equally represent all members of the unit.
    I will first discuss that aspect of the duty of fair representation which involves disparate treatment by a union of a unit employee based on union membership.
    B. Authority Test When Employees are Treated Differently Based on Union Membership
    1. Legal Test
    This aspect of the duty of fair representation usually concerns situations where a non-dues paying bargaining unit employee claims disparate treatment from that received by dues paying union members. In other words, an employee alleges he/she was treated differently just because they were not union members.

  • Stop holding your breath Kurt. I think that’s unfair. I also think it’s unfair to require non-union employees to fork over even a minimal of funds to the union.

    OK. And the labor movement is happy to concurrently do away with both. The Chamber of Commerce and the GOP is not. I appreciate your kindness. Can you advise me about how we can get the great majority of conservatives who have taken up your viewpoint to move on this?

    Again, you’re either missing the point or dodging.

    The law is clear that Wisconsin unions can’t use dues money for political activities. If you are aware of a violation of the law, I think you should report it to the Wisconsin AG.

  • Within the past twenty years there were tens of thousands of private sector employees just like myself who, after many years on the job and been given our “outstanding service” plaques, were regrettably “downsized” out of a job because our companies or subsidiaries could no longer “afford” us. It was simply and necessarily the right fiscal move to keep the company profitable for the stockholders.
    Why in heavens name can’t the state of Wisconsin or any other enterprise with responsibility to those who fund their operations use the same logic to maintain its solvency without being looked upon as villains?
    Also, I feel certain that not any one of the people I have referred to was promised a job for life and were free to terminate their employment when ever we wished.

  • Humphrey V. Moore looks to be about the union being required to represent everyone when they’re the only ones allowed to represent anyone, and MacKnight v. Leonard Morse Hospital has no mention of union membership in it.
    (The case seems to be about a really bad nurse throwing a fit about the person who represented her deciding, after the case was done, that she really shouldn’t be a nurse.)

    The only link between MacKnight and membership in a union I could find was a statement in this document, as some sort of afterthought to mentioning that grievance representations have to be materially deficient to be actionable.

    The text you quoted boils down to: “When the union is the only one allowed to represent anyone, they have to represent non-union members, too.”

    Or:
    FLRA.gov
    Basically, an exclusive representative may not treat non-union members differently than dues paying union members in matters over which the union has exclusive control. Thus, the duty not to discriminate based on union membership attaches only when an employee has no right to choose a representative other than the union to represent the employee in the underlying dispute. In situations where an employee may choose a representative other than the exclusive representative, such as in a proceeding before the Merit Systems Protection Board or in litigation in a U.S. District Court, the exclusive representative may discriminate between dues paying members and non-members and thus may lawfully treat employees differently on the basis of whether or not they pay dues and belong to the union. Since the union in such situations does not have exclusive representation authority, the employees who are not union members may protect their interests by selecting representation from other sources. Thus, the Authority has held that an exclusive representative’s responsibilities will be analyzed “in the context of whether or not the union’s representational activities on behalf of employees are grounded in the union’s authority to act as exclusive representative.”

    So you’re not required to give non-members service equal to what you’d give union members, unless they’re barred from getting that service themselves.

    I can see why folks would object if the unions didn’t give up all exclusive representation rights– that is, if it wasn’t made so that non-union members aren’t bound by union deals. Without having the data about the lawsuit on hand, and not being able to find it without better details, I’m not prone to think well of the unions.

    Can you advise me about how we can get the great majority of conservatives who have taken up your viewpoint to move on this?

    Why try to get ‘conservatives’ to do it, when you could try to get the unions to work for it? Be a good thing– get them off of abortion, birth control, etc.
    Could even make a nice big national campaign out of it- “True Freedom! Freeing those who want no union from being bound by union deals, freeing unions from responsibility to those who don’t want to join!”

    The law is clear that Wisconsin unions can’t use dues money for political activities.

    I believe you mean partisan political activities. Same way that ACORN isn’t allowed to be partisan– and we all believe that, right?

  • OK. And the labor movement is happy to concurrently do away with both. The Chamber of Commerce and the GOP is not. I appreciate your kindness. Can you advise me about how we can get the great majority of conservatives who have taken up your viewpoint to move on this?

    My guess is, you’d find that the vast majority of conservatives have no interest in continuing this — after all many conservatives don’t want there to be unions at all, so they could hardly want unions to be representing non-union members. The reason folks like the Chamber of Commerce would oppose changing this is, I would imagine, that one of the benefits a company would be considering in forming an agreement with a union would be that they can now push off a lot of their HR work on the union. If the union is relieved of this responsibility, this effectively increase’s the company’s costs. So they aren’t going to want to let unions off the hook without renegotiating on terms more favorable to them. However, if unions never wanted to have to represent these folks anyway, I’m sure they should be happy to agree.

    If conservatives aren’t leading the charge on this, it’s probably because they either don’t know about it or are busy trying to relieve unions of other responsibilities.

    The law is clear that Wisconsin unions can’t use dues money for political activities. If you are aware of a violation of the law, I think you should report it to the Wisconsin AG.

    Forgive me, but I get the sense that we’re getting answers here which are true but not actually answering the question asked. Anyone who reads the paper knows that union money is a big factor (almost always on the progressive side of the aisle) in elections. Now, it’s possible that all of this is voluntarily given PAC money from happy union members — after all the NRA is an election heavyweight and all its money is collected from voluntarily paying members — but I must admit that given that virtually all the actual union members I know are unwilling members who have been forced to join by union shop agreements, I find it a little hard to believe that PAC donations are the sole source of all the union money at play in elections.

    Now it’s possible that:

    a) This is somehow different in Wisconsin than in much of the rest of the country or
    b) You’re telling us things that are true but not actually answering the questions we’re asking.

    How do I get this idea about union money in elections? Well, a quick google search returned this as the number one result:

    Two top newspapers are examining two of the top spenders in this year’s campaigns. The Wall Street Journal says the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is the no. 1 independent spender. The New York Times delves into public records to identify corporations that are helping to fund policy battles and record campaign spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

    According to the Journal, AFSCME is spending $87.5 million — more than anyone else, but the title could be temporary depending on what happens in the next 10 days. The union’s money comes from dues paid by its 1.6 million members.

    So, is Politics Daily lying or mistaken, or is it in fact common practice for dues money to go to political purposes? In this case, Labor apparently out-spent the Chamber of Commerce, which suggests some pretty solidly deep pockets.

    And here’s the Daily Beast saying the same thing even more explicitly:

    Team Obama’s message in the closing weeks of the campaign was completely eclipsed Friday by a union official who openly boasted in a story reported by The Wall Street Journal: “We don’t like to brag,” but “we’re the big dog” when it comes to campaign funding.

    Big as in $87.5 million. Big as in the biggest spender of any outside group—all meant to protect the interests of unions, the new “privileged class.” But wait a minute: Team O led us to believe that honor went to the vilified U.S. Chamber of Commerce and all of its alleged contributions from “foreign money” sponsors.

    A record $87.5 million has been spent by one union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to elect Democrats. Paid not by voluntary contribution from its members, but by forced union dues from workers—who are paid by taxpayers.

  • My guess is, you’d find that the vast majority of conservatives have no interest in continuing this

    Well, we have a situation in which labor has an offer on the table to abolish. And we have your assertion (which I will accept) that most rank and file conservatives would accept labor’s offer. And we have the reality that the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP are blocking abolishing this situation.

    Where this leads me is that once again rank and file conservatives are dupes for Big Business and the Republican establishment. We have conservative politicans blocking the way for what labor and informed rank and file conservatives see as the right path. And we have scads of conservatives (as any google search will show) who rail against the unuon shop while are blind to DFR obligations of unions.

  • I don’t think that conservatives are particularly “dupes” in this regard, they just don’t translate their thinking into the particular actions which would be most helpful to labor. They’re a lot more interested in getting unions out entirely than in relieving them of their obligations to non-union workers in an open shop.

    Of course, what I’d be much more interested in is your response to the question about election spending and union dues.

  • I don’t think that conservatives are particularly “dupes” in this regard, they just don’t translate their thinking into the particular actions which would be most helpful to labor. They’re a lot more interested in getting unions out entirely

    I appreciate that. It’s not hard to say: “I’m against labor unions I want to get rid of them entirely.”

    I obviously disagree with that view, but I appreciate it much better than those who pretend they are not against organized labor, just raise a myriad of particular objections.

  • It’s a matter of simplicity. If you don’t want to have to join a union or have a union dictating the terms of your employment, it takes very little knowledge of labor law to simply oppose having a union around your workplace at all. It takes rather more to get into the fine points of advocating a labor law change that would allow a union to represent some of your coworkers but not you.

    This doesn’t necessarily indicate an opposition to organized labor in principle, though it might, just a dislike for what it is in the US at this time.

    And speaking of fine points — I notice that all of a sudden you’re willing to respond to any topic other than union dues being used for political advocacy. Should we take that as an admission that although what you said earlier may have been technically true in some sense, that it is in fact standard practice for dues to be used for political purposes?

  • I understand the hostility of the idea of non-supervisory workers of a common trade or profession making collective, democratic decisions about desired terms and conditions of employment and then negotiating with the employer over those terms and condition rather than the belief that bosses and the Blessed Mother are preserved from Original Sin and therefore incapable of doing wrong, and therefore the bosses dictating the terms of employment is perfectly fine.

    On political action, your issue is that you think the legal definition of political campaign activity is lax. I am happy to support a more strigent definition in law. I’m not willing to support an initative that applies different standards to groups I dislike and groups I like. I’m even less willing to agree at a different standard for groups YOU like and dislike.

  • On political action, your issue is that you think the legal definition of political campaign activity is lax.

    No, we just notice that 1) there is a lot of money, and 2) it’s going in a pretty uniform direction.

    I know I’d much rather trust in myself and a “boss” than a democratic group I was forced to join. “Democracy” becomes “mob rule” rather easily. (Ask a sheep having a nice, democratic vote with two wolves on what to have for dinner.)

  • “And rather than constantly reading from conservatives attacks on unions for the union shop, should I have any hope that these attacks would be retired…”

    Actually, we should look at rather unions, as they are currently constructed (particularly in Wisconsin,) are in accord with Catholic Social teaching. As the bishop of Madison noted in his letter, and contra the distorted post on Vox Nova, Catholics may licitly disagree. Actually a very good position for Catholics to support the Gov. of Wisconsin and reform disordered unions.

  • “I understand the hostility of the idea of non-supervisory workers of a common trade or profession making collective, democratic decisions about desired terms and conditions of employment and then negotiating with the employer over those terms and condition rather than the belief that bosses and the Blessed Mother are preserved from Original Sin and therefore incapable of doing wrong..,”

    The problem comes in when union bosses, who are also possessed of Original Sin, distort the purpose of a union and become an arm of a political party. Particularly when it acts contra the common good.

  • Kurt,

    I understand the hostility of the idea of non-supervisory workers of a common trade or profession making collective, democratic decisions about desired terms and conditions of employment and then negotiating with the employer over those terms and condition rather than the belief that bosses and the Blessed Mother are preserved from Original Sin and therefore incapable of doing wrong, and therefore the bosses dictating the terms of employment is perfectly fine.

    Oh come now, there’s no need to get all melodramatic about it.

    I don’t dislike unions because I think bosses are somehow preserved from original sin — like everyone else I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses. (Recently I had one so stupid I up and left the company — for which I should probably thank him since the new job he encouraged me to find pays a lot more.)

    I the reason I dislike unions is because:

    a) They seem permanently wedded to a set of ideas in the political arena (e.g. the Democratic Party) which I think is destructive at best and at times evil, and

    b) All of the interactions I and my personal friends and families have had with unions have been negative, and left me to feel that their primary purpose is to cause people to obsess over trying to do as little real work as possible.

    If my experiences had been different, I might feel very differently about unions. (Given that you work for unions, I would assume your experiences, or at least interests, have been the opposite.) But my experiences have in fact been quite negative, and thus so are my opinions.

    On political action, your issue is that you think the legal definition of political campaign activity is lax. I am happy to support a more strigent definition in law. I’m not willing to support an initative that applies different standards to groups I dislike and groups I like. I’m even less willing to agree at a different standard for groups YOU like and dislike.

    No, I don’t think that the legal definition of campaign activity is too lax. I have no problem with the unions, the chamber of commerce, the NRA, and indeed large corporations themselves spending large amounts of money in elections. (In this sense, it strikes me that Citizens United was simply leveling the playing field a bit.)

    However, given that I see no problem with unions spending their dues money on political activism, and given that I think they almost universally support bad policies when they spend their campaign funds, you can hardly be surprised if I am against expanding union membership, especially through the coercion of union shops. Less union dues means less money spend on policies I think are bad, so given that unions advocate policies I think are bad, it naturally follows that I want to see them both small and weak.

  • (Ask a sheep having a nice, democratic vote with two wolves on what to have for dinner.)

    And there you have it. Most workers are wolves. And therefore allowing worker organization and allowing them to make democratic decisions is to empower wolves.

    The problem comes in when union [elected leaders], who are also possessed of Original Sin, distort the purpose of a union and become an arm of a political party.

    Except it is not a distortion of a labor unions to give workers and worker issues a voice in politics. Your problem is that you simply don’t like the political choices non-supervisiory workers make.

  • *snort* Thanks for the jumping to conclusions. Are most people going to beat you up and take your wallet? Do you thus assume that any large group of people have your best interests at heart?

    Do you make the flatly insane assumption that they have the same goals as you?

    Does the concept of people disagreeing with you and not being either stupid or evil even come to mind, Kurt?

  • Except it is not a distortion of a labor unions to give workers and worker issues a voice in politics. Your problem is that you simply don’t like the political choices non-supervisiory workers make.

    A false dichotomy and part of the union mentality and short sightedness many of us reject. There’s an assumption that all non-supervisory citizens are in one camp, but that clearly isn’t so. I am from blue collar stock, having worked so for 25 years and have never agreed with the political choices of the unions. Nor have I found uniform approval of the same from union employees. Most seem apathetic to the union’s political work and some even despise it. I also do not find anything monolithic about the politics of people who are supervisors.

    To make matters worse, it’s not really non-supervisor workers making those political decisions, it’s essentially supervisors and administrators of large national corporations making them. Kind of ironic when you think about it.

  • It occurs to me that unions have the power to remove their responsibilities to non-members already in their hands– they only have responsibility where they have exclusivity.

    If they gave up exclusivity, they’d no longer have a responsibility to non-union members. No need to worry about the Chamber of Commerce or the current administration, and frankly I think that would satisfy most of the folks here, as well– a fully voluntary group that only has effect on its members? Sounds good to me.

    Perhaps they’d have to make sure their members were able to go via other routes as well to be fully “non-exclusive”.

  • “Except it is not a distortion of a labor unions to give workers and worker issues a voice in politics. Your problem is that you simply don’t like the political choices non-supervisiory workers make.”

    As many have noted, many workers do not agree with the political decisions of some other union workers and their union bosses. But again, its that many unions have become a political arm of the Democratic Party that is of concern. As noted, this is contrary to Catholic Social teaching.

  • Your problem is that you simply don’t like the political choices non-supervisiory workers make.

    I take it you have never worked in higher education, Kurt.

  • There’s an assumption that all non-supervisory citizens are in one camp, but that clearly isn’t so. I am from blue collar stock, having worked so for 25 years and have never agreed with the political choices of the unions. Nor have I found uniform approval of the same from union employees. Most seem apathetic to the union’s political work and some even despise it.

    In my work with unions, I have found 95% of our members support the political choices the membership makes. And the remaining 5% dissents to the Left.

    American unions are in full accord with Catholic Social Teaching on their political independence. We pursue the agenda our members direct us on workplace issues and support the candidates who support us.

    It occurs to me that unions have the power to remove their responsibilities to non-members already in their hands– they only have responsibility where they have exclusivity

    The issue of exclusivity is a demand of management, not labor. Management does not want to deal with multiple unions among the same unit of workers, therefore has seen that the law is written to have a single (or exclusive) representative rather than the possibility of multiple representatives.

  • The issue of exclusivity is a demand of management, not labor. Management does not want to deal with multiple unions among the same unit of workers, therefore has seen that the law is written to have a single (or exclusive) representative rather than the possibility of multiple representatives.

    Doesn’t change that it’s a matter the unions can deal with, rather than trying to get others to do it for them.

  • “American unions are in full accord with Catholic Social Teaching on their political independence. We pursue the agenda our members direct us on workplace issues and support the candidates who support us. ”

    That’s already debatable as Unions are not to be a “partisan arm”

    I think others have also shown that it is less than 95% who support the politics of the Unions. If I recall, when NY State stopped collecting dues for the public employees, 90% of members stopped paying. Now perhaps they were that 5% who were to the left of the union and were voicing protest. But I doubt it.

  • Here where a union, acting contrary to CST and the majority of its union members. Of course acting as an arm of the Democratic Party:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100339693

  • Doesn’t change that it’s a matter the unions can deal with, rather than trying to get others to do it for them.

    Its written into the law. Therefore a change of law would be needed.

    That’s already debatable as Unions are not to be a “partisan arm”>

    And they are not a partisan arm. The Democratic Party has no control over unions.

    I think others have also shown that it is less than 95% who support the politics of the Unions.

    Absolutely no evidence to that. Now, when it comes to shareholder in a corporation, there you have a case.

  • “Absolutely no evidence to that. Now, when it comes to shareholder in a corporation, there you have a case.”

    Didn’t read the link, did ya?

  • Unlike shareholders, who are denied any right to have a say about political use of their money, union members have the right to go to a local union meeting, speak their mind, make motions and vote on them, and elect their leaders. In all the union elections I’ve observed, I can’t recall a single winning candidate who promised to do less on political action. Sorry, you are out of touch on that one.

  • Kurt,

    Well, that’s kind of a no brainer due to selection bias. Given that unions are invariably run by Democratic Party activists, people who don’t like the party are generally going to grudgingly surrender their mandatory dues and ignore all the political junk mail they get from their unions, not show up to meetings where they’ll only be ignored and disliked.

  • “Sorry, you are out of touch on that one.”

    Still didn’t read the link. Not an anectdote like you present, but a survey. More powerful statistically than an anecdote.

  • DC,

    I gotta say you are clueless about unions, and I’m increasingly convinced clueless about blue collar Americans. I would say about 1/3rd of union officers are Republicans, and know it for fact regarding some particular unions that have done surveys.

  • (an aside: First time to this site and based on the caliber of this discussion I can promise you I’ll be coming back to read more. Mature, informed, engaged dialogue… that’s rare.)

    There are a number of issues covered above but I’ll try to comment on just a few. Full disclosure, I work for a non-union professional employee association.

    –Regarding the political agenda of the union:

    Although I’m in agreement with everyone’s (sans Kurt) general impression of the union being effectively an arm of the Democratic Party, it is not enough to just have an impression. But the facts are that public employee unions (I’ll use the NEA as an example) fund left-leaning political causes, ballot initiatives, and indirectly support the efforts of left-leaning campaigns. [http://teachersunionexposed.com/dues.cfm]
    (I apologize for not having a more neutral source, but the assertions and data listed on this page are valid.)

    The union can and does spend dues on politics (I believe the NEA will spend $20 per member from dues on political activism). They cannot fund elections or campaigns unless they’re operating through a PAC (for which dues are “voluntary”, more on that later), but they can and do fund ballot initiatives (the teachers union is the largest supporter of tax increasing ballot initiatives), non-profit liberal organizations, advertisements that technically obey campaign finance laws, etc. And those are just the legal means. They also, via other channels, such as their PAC, are heavily involved in elections, GOTV efforts, and campaign ads. Few will argue that the unions are a major political force and that their agenda leans overwhelmingly to the left, but it is true that deducing whether or not dues ends up supporting the agenda is hard to determine (for us and for the dues-paying members). Many Catholic public school teachers become religious objectors regarding compulsory union dues to prevent any money from ending up supporting abortion or other fundamental issues (religious objectors see 100% of their dues go to a mutually agreed-upon charity).

    –As to Kurt’s claim of 95% support, the facts tell a different story (Kurt is actually better informed than most union supporters with whom I debate, although we disagree on this assertion):

    Non-union association supporters push “paycheck protection” laws, which takes the government out of the role of collecting monies via payroll deduction for political activity. In other words, the government isn’t spending taxpayer dollars to process heretofore opt-out political contributions. When states pass these laws, the teachers unions saw their ‘voluntary contributions’ plummet by 85%-90%. Suddenly when teachers were required to opt-in, very few were interested. Paycheck protection laws are moving forward in Alabama and Florida now.

    Not to mention, when 90% plus of the PAC money goes to one party, but more than half of your membership belongs to another party or is independent (not to mention those who are apathetic to politics), it can’t be true that the membership supports the political agenda of their association, especially those who are forced to pay dues (non-right to work states) or those whose states do not yet have paycheck protection laws. Perhaps Kurt is referring to the NEA’s representative assembly. 95% is still high, but we can certainly agree that a majority of those who attend the RA vote to create the political agenda of the NEA. That doesn’t mean that union members necessarily supported those conclusions. The equivalent would be to say that most Americans support pay increases for their legislators because the legislators voted for pay increases and Americans voted for the legislators. The transitive properties don’t quite work in a representative government.

    –Forced unionism:

    The right to association means that government should not prevent me from freely associating–and I also shouldn’t be forced to associate. Union shop supporters can parse words about who is a “member” (those who become “agency fee” payers are beholden to their contract whether they like it or not, but the lose the right to vote on the contract, union elections, attend meetings, liability insurance, discounts, etc.–even though they often pay 85% or more of the dues of a full member) but the truth is the employees are forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. That is un-American. And I will equally defend the right of an individual to join a union as the right of an individual to work a job without joining the union.

    Kurt’s note about the unions wanting to end the union shop in exchange for not protecting non-members intrigues me. Right to work states do end the union shop, although collective bargaining agreements do represent all employees of a certain class (so a teacher in Kansas is beholden to the contract even if they never pay a penny of union dues or ever joined). Although non-members’ rights are limited, the union is technically required to serve those employees per the contract. If they end that obligation, are they expecting to get more dues from the right to work states “free riders” (their word) than they’ll lose from the folks in previously non-right to work states leaving the contract? I don’t think they’re that foolish but I would like to hear more, Kurt, if you can point me to some links.

  • Few will argue that the unions are a major political force and that their agenda leans overwhelmingly to the left,

    I won’t argue it. I would agrue that support for workers defines the left. Everything else sometimes associated with the left — environmentalism, abortion rights, gun control — is secondary and non-essential.

    When states pass these laws, the teachers unions saw their ‘voluntary contributions’ plummet by 85%-90%. Suddenly when teachers were required to opt-in, very few were interested. Paycheck protection laws are moving forward in Alabama

    It passed in Alabama and already 87% of teachers have signed up for electronic payment from their bank accounts, by passing payroll deduction. Despite the logistical challenges of switching the entire union membership in one swoop, the union now thinks they may eventually reach 99%.

    Kinda shoots that theory all to heck.

    Many Catholic public school teachers become religious objectors regarding compulsory union dues …

    No Court has ever allowed Catholics to have a legally recognized religious objection to union dues because the Church’s Magisterium has refused all requests to testify on behalf of objecting individual Catholics.

    Beck objectors need not state a reason for their dues rebate, but Catholics are among the least likely to be among the 5% of workers who are Beck objectors.

    –As to Kurt’s claim of 95% support, the facts tell a different story

    What facts? Have you talked to 6% of the membership?

    Not to mention, when 90% plus of the PAC money goes to one party, but more than half of your membership belongs to another party or is independent (not to mention those who are apathetic to politics), it can’t be true that the membership supports the political agenda of their association

    The members of my union are 30% Republican, 45% Democratic, 25% Independent. In our most recent membership survey, 95% said the union should advocate for our members in political action based on union issues.

    Kurt’s note about the unions wanting to end the union shop in exchange for not protecting non-members intrigues me.

    Under current law, a union must give fair representation to everyone in a unit, be they union members or not. That means that a non-member can file a grivance and the union must represent him, fairly and equally as a dues paying union member even if it costs the union thousands and thousands of dollars to do so. If the union wins a case for back pay, the settlement agreement the union negotiates must apply equally to union and non-union members (I have been successfull in insisting as part of the settlement that rather than mail the back pay checks to the harmed workers, they are to be picked up in the union office. Sadly, even though the checks would have paid three years of dues, the free-riding skunks didn’t have a bit of shame walking in the union office to get their check).

    It has been management, not labor who has insisted that a union cannot just represent part of what management decides is a bargaining unit.

  • “No Court has ever allowed Catholics to have a legally recognized religious objection to union dues because the Church’s Magisterium has refused all requests to testify on behalf of objecting individual Catholics.

    Beck objectors need not state a reason for their dues rebate, but Catholics are among the least likely to be among the 5% of workers who are Beck objectors.”

    I direct you to Roesser v. University of Detroit & University of Detroit Professors Association/MEA/NEA. This article lists another case in NY:
    http://www.mackinac.org/2912. And there are more. In fact, many of the religious objectors I encounter are Catholic. Perhaps I just have an easier time spotting or connecting with Catholics, but that’s been my experience.

    Regardless, my point wasn’t that Catholics specifically object (just using an example since we’re on a Catholic website), but that the political positions of the union are radical enough for individuals of many faiths to forfeit benefits in order to see their money go to a charity rather than the union’s agenda (despite the union’s cooperation, per the examples above).

    In fact, my organization and many like it grow because of individuals fed up with the political positions of the union–especially those unrelated to the profession. They are absolutely not “secondary or non-essential”–but quite the contrary. They are at the core of what the union, at least the NEA, stands for in this country: more taxes and a liberal social agenda. I’m not saying they’re not allowed to do this, I believe strongly in the right to associate freely, but let’s all be adults and acknowledge that the unions are a major political force for the Left in this country. If I understand you correctly you are not disagreeing on this point.

    “The members of my union are 30% Republican, 45% Democratic, 25% Independent. In our most recent membership survey, 95% said the union should advocate for our members in political action based on union issues.”

    To be fair, you did qualify your claim of 95% support by noting that you are speaking exclusively to your work with unions (are you in a right-to-work state??). I can say that my experience with unions hasn’t been quite the opposite, but there are many who either don’t know what their union is doing politically, think (incorrectly) that their dues money is only for bargaining and benefits because they aren’t giving to the PAC, are afraid to speak up about their disagreements with the political positions of the union, are apathetic to politics, or are resolved to their fate because they think there are no options available to them. For those who are happy with the activity of their union, they should certainly remain members. For those who aren’t, they should be free to either pay for the legally exclusive benefits the union can provide, direct all of their dues to charity, or withdraw from the union and find another option for benefits and protection. Seems like the American thing to do, to let people choose. Others on this forum have provided examples of how the revelation that the union is working against the wishes of its own members has caused an uproar (e.g. Prop 8 in California) that don’t validate your claim (then again, California is not a right-to-work state…).

    Also, define “union issues”–does that mean 95% of your membership wants your union to support gun control? amnesty for illegal immigrants? off-shore drilling bans? gay marriage? abortion? stem cell research? or that 95% of your union wants the union to be an effective advocate for the profession…

    “It passed in Alabama and already 87% of teachers have signed up for electronic payment from their bank accounts, by passing payroll deduction. Despite the logistical challenges of switching the entire union membership in one swoop, the union now thinks they may eventually reach 99%.”

    I too was surprised at the 87% figure, seemed mighty fast to me. Either the union has learned how to react swiftly to such legislation, they were planning ahead for some time, or something isn’t adding up. They’re trying to block the legislation in court, so they must not be very close to 99% just yet. Regardless, those individuals are absolutely welcome to arrange for bank draft and continue to pay dues voluntarily. The state shouldn’t be in the role of collecting dues for political organizations. I consider it a success for America, whether union membership goes up, down, or stays the same as a result.

    More importantly, union members can more easily end their membership when they so choose. Too many union contracts prevent the school district from ending payroll deduction union dues except during predefined periods (as determined by the union). You can sign your name to a napkin to get in, but if you want to get out you need to turn in certified letter during 2 weeks of the year–the two weeks around July 4th! That’s criminal (the example is an NEA affiliate in a Right-to-Work state). My organization allows members to come and go as they please. We don’t need to lock the doors to keep people from leaving. The union will be even more accountable and responsive to their members if the members don’t have to wait another 11 months before they can save their money.

    “It has been management, not labor who has insisted that a union cannot just represent part of what management decides is a bargaining unit.”

    I understand your argument in favor of this agreement, although I would support the compromise for completely different reasons (because I predict a different outcome), but I asked for some links or evidence to management preventing this grand bargain (or of the unions supporting it). Two rational people such as you and I could come to an understanding on it, but that doesn’t mean our respective sides of the debate have any intention of doing so.

    It is right to conclude that you would support all states being right-to-work so long as those who are still in the union aren’t obligated to support those who choose not to be? Because on that, sir, we are in agreement.

    In closing, I stand behind my points. The unions support a radical political agenda, 95% of union members (particularly the involuntary members) are not in agreement with the agenda, and forced unionism (and forced dues) are wrong and should be ended. Seems you agree on the first and third points (granted not with my exact language) and on the second point I await your response.

  • Many Catholic public school teachers become religious objectors regarding compulsory union dues …I direct you to Roesser v. University of Detroit & University of Detroit Professors Association/MEA/NEA.

    University of Detroit is not a public school, it is a Catholic university. The Roesser case allowed him to only pay an agency fee, it did not give him a religious basis for exemption from all dues. I would note this solitary objector at a Catholic institution adds to my previous observation that the Church’s Magisterium has refused all pleas from anti-union litigants to testify on their behalf. I think the highest ranking cleric to testify in such as case was a Monsignor and USCCB department head in the 1980s who testified in favor of the union.

    Regardless, my point wasn’t that Catholics specifically object

    Okay, I think we are clear here. One need not state a reason for invoking Beck rights, as about 5% of b.u. workers do. A Baptist might be able to make a good case his personal understanding of the Bible requires him to quit the union. A Catholic (because our theology is different from the Baptists) has never successfully made the case his Church requires it, because his Church refuses to say so. Someday, you might find a judge who has a “Baptist” view of Catholicism who sides with such a litigant. But this is a side point.

    They are at the core of what the union, at least the NEA,

    Again, I notice conservative critics almost exclusively limit their discussion to the teacher unions. Citing as an example once or twice is understandable. But you do understand the inability to ever reference any other trade simply confirms with me and many others the opinion that even among “populist” conservatives, they are totally disconnected to Americans who work in a factory, mine, mill or machine shop. Personally, I think this is the basis of so much conservative hostility to labor. All rhetoric aside, they know they cannot even carry on a learned conversation about blue collar life and they are terrified that their political opponents have connections to large numbers of Americans with whom they are totally disconnected from.

    but that the political positions of the union are radical enough for individuals of many faiths to forfeit benefits

    5% for all reasons totaled — religious objectors, ideological objectors, cheap-os and social misfits.

    There is an argument for accommodating a dissenting majority, but conservatives have utterly failed at any evidence that the democratic processes used by unions (again, conservatives being incapable of speaking about any trade other than the teachers) to set their public policy agendas are not reflective of the membership.

    To be fair, you did qualify your claim of 95% support by noting that you are speaking exclusively to your work with unions (are you in a right-to-work state??).

    I cite my union as an example. I know of two other large unions that survey their members. Appropriately, they carefully phrased two questions to address the real issue (this was during the 2004 presidential race)– “If the election was held today would you vote for Bush or Kerry” (2:1 in favor of Kerry), and “Regardless of who you are voting for, which candidate has the better position on [steelworker] issues” (95% Kerry).

    I can say that my experience with unions hasn’t been quite the opposite,… An experience that I have not seen extends to factory workers, mineworkers, mill workers, truck drivers or machine shop workers

    Also, define “union issues”–does that mean 95% of your membership wants your union to support gun control? amnesty for illegal immigrants? off-shore drilling bans? gay marriage? abortion? stem cell research? or that 95% of your union wants the union to be an effective advocate for the profession

    Union issues are those the membership votes to be union issues at our National Convention, where any delegate can propose a resolution. However, my union has not taken a stand on any of those issues you mention nor have the great majority of labor unions (immigration reform might be the exception). On the other hand, I make no apologies for labor support for the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King said these laws would have never been enacted over the conservative opposition without labor and I agree here with Dr. King.

    On the other matter, I may not have been clear. To me, as a man of the Left, I hold what defines the Left is support for workers and economic justice. Other issues are not essential to the Left. If you think standing for workers is radical, well, that’s you.

    I too was surprised at the 87% figure

    Yeah. Kinda blows to heck one the conservative talking points. I’m sure Glenn Beck has some crazy response! :)

    They’re trying to block the legislation in court,

    They have been successful. The Republicans could have written a constitutional law that blocked any payroll deductions. Instead they singled out labor but left alone the United Way, softball league and anything else employees authorized. Banning union dues but leaving any other payroll deduction in place is a discriminatory law that has no place in a free society.

    My organization allows members to come and go as they please

    Really? What’s your membership and what’s the date of your annual meeting? I might know some guys (just enough to be a majority) who want to join for the one day the voting take place.

    It is right to conclude that you would support all states being right-to-work so long as those who are still in the union aren’t obligated to support those who choose not to be? Because on that, sir, we are in agreement.

    Yes, let a union organize and represent that part of a bargaining unit who wishes to be in the union. If you are in the union, you get the negotiated pay and benefits, any settlements, grievance representation, etc. In essence, the bargaining unit is redefined to include simply those workers who choose to be union members (this actually would not require any change in law if management would cooperate. While the NLRB settles labor – management disputes as to the boundaries of the bargaining unit, it is very rare they meddle if there is agreement between the two parties. )

    Professor Morris is the leading advocate of this, but since his book, there have been adverse rulings by the Labor Board in response to management objections.

    http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4218

    I also would ask your support that the restriction on labor’s first amendment rights in the prohibition of secondary actions/boycotts be repealed. It would seem to me this should offend libertarian conservatives.

  • On religious objectors:

    It seems we are in agreement that some individuals are so opposed to the political positions of the union that because no other choice is available to them, they become agency fee payers or religious objectors. We disagree on the number that this figure represents (in particular because I don’t think we’re comparing apples to apples, but rather your experience with private sector unions, possibly in right to work states, with my experience with public sector unions, specifically the NEA, in non-right-to-work states), but the point is that (some of) the unions take strong positions on social issues, almost exclusively on the Left, that is not the desire of their members.

    On a side note, you (accidentally, I assume) combined two of my statements. I mentioned as an aside to my point (repeated above) that Catholic school teachers become religious objectors to avoid funding the radical agenda of the unions. You said no court recognizes the religious objector rights of Catholics (not just teachers). I quickly searched for linkable examples and found two, one of which happens to be in education (also one was private sector, one public), but certainly wasn’t limiting myself to teachers in response to your broad comment. In fairness, it was my error for not making time to read the decisions themselves, I trusted lines in articles referring to the cases that they “upheld the Title VII rights” of the employee. The latter example (the link) was a public sector Catholic employee allowed to send his money to charity. It does happen, although it shouldn’t even be necessary to become an objector but rather just leave the union if they take a position that is against any of your beliefs, religious or otherwise.

    But we’re starting to go in circles when in the end we do agree that individuals who want to be in a union and be represented by that union should have the right to do so, while others should be able to negotiate their own terms of employment and join any other association. I can understand, after having done some reading, why employers don’t want to have to negotiate with numerous unions, since each negotiation would work off of the last agreement, etc. I can explain what I’m saying but I have other points to get to.

    On your union:

    You’ve yet to answer me, are you in a right-to-work state? Ideological cohesion is much easier when you run a voluntary group, I’ll concede. I deal with many, however, who do not have a choice.

    On public versus private unions:

    First, this blog article is about public employee unions, so although I concede that I can always be more clear, I was assuming we’re talking about public employee unions all along.

    I see a fundamental difference between public employee unions and private employee unions. In fact, many in my family are voluntary members of private employee unions. Private employees negotiate with private employers over the share of profits they create together. I have no problem with that. If the owners don’t make reasonable offers, they have no workers to run the mines, factories, shipping, etc. If the workers don’t accept reasonable offers, they’ll put the company out of business (unless of course the US government steps in and hands you shares of the company while trampling the rights of shareholders). That equilibrium is fair (minus the bailout). I may have concerns about specifics (not a fan of “card check”; no tolerance for owners mistreating workers; workplace safety is paramount) but the system will balance itself with those two forces naturally in check.

    On the other hand, public employee unions negotiate with elected officials that they helped elect! And the “profits” they decide on is our tax dollars. Public employee unions pass laws that favor the growth and power of the public employee unions, which they use to pass more laws. They also fight laws that would increase accountability for the jobs that they do. This is a vicious cycle. There is no balance or equilibrium. The elected local and state officials, without tax dollars, are extorted by the public employee unions for more and more in benefits. It is both criminal to demand more than the municipality can pay, and criminal for the municipality to promise what they can’t provide. It is unfair to the workers (public and private) and to the taxpayer.

    On the NEA:

    The National Education Association is the largest labor union in the country. It is also tremendously important in lobbying, elections and campaigns, and forwarding the agenda of the Democratic Party (almost exclusively). It is also the union on which I know the most. So aside from the key difference between public and private, made above (in sum, I have few complaints about private employee unions, particularly those with dangerous working conditions), the NEA is a prime example of how unions behave in this country. It is not the only example, and I’m sorry if their actions reflect poorly on you or overshadow what your union does, but take that up with the NEA. The SEIU doesn’t exactly sit out political battles either, nor does AFSCME. FYI, those are the three largest labor unions in the country.

    In fact, I would love to see some private employee unions insist that the public employee unions not conflate these two very different groups. School teachers demanding not to pay any of their health insurance premiums is not the same as coal miners demanding some reasonable safety measures be put in place to save lives. Unions thrive on solidarity but at some point there are some in the labor movement in cushy offices standing on the backs of truck drivers and factory workers–raising taxes on those same labor brethren to boost their own pensions and retire at 60.

    On VRA and CRA of the ’60s:

    Not sure which “conservatives” MLK is referring to, but the votes were much more accurately a battle between North and South. For example, the Republican Party voted in greater percentages for both laws than the Democrats. I would agree that without labor, those acts might not have been able to overcome “traditionalists” opposition (as they referred to themselves), but labor wasn’t alone in that fight and didn’t include many of the public employee unions.

    Also, I do not think “standing with workers” is radical, in fact, that is the job of the union. What is radical is the agenda unrelated to labor or the profession that the union represents. Why would the NEA even have an opinion on Native Hawaiian lands, nursing homes, veterans’ benefits? The answer is that the NEA is an incredibly powerful political force and the liberal agenda will try to use whichever tools are at its disposal (no different than any other agenda). The NEA Legislative Agenda is to the Left of the Democratic Party.

    On Alabama:

    Time will tell what the effects of the law is. But like I said, regarding those laws, if they are fair (exceptions to these laws always concern me, as they do you), then it doesn’t matter how many people leave or join the union afterward, just that they have the choice.

    Glenn Beck always has something crazy to say. I choose not to listen.

    Speaking of crazy, very funny on the “annual meeting.” Tell your friends we hold our annual meeting 90 miles south of Key West, Florida.

    Can you elaborate on the amendment rights to which you are referring? Is your union prohibited from organizing a boycott?

  • It seems we are in agreement that some individuals are so opposed to the political positions of the union that because no other choice is available to them, they become agency fee payers or religious objectors.

    Okay, some individuals. And the choice of going to the union meeting and making a motion to reverse the union’s position on the objectional issue is not a choice they have because the hold a minority viewpoint in the union. Being in the minority doesn’t mean one is wrong, it just means they are at a disadvantage in a democratic organization.

    On a side note, you (accidentally, I assume) combined two of my statements. I mentioned as an aside to my point (repeated above) that Catholic school teachers become religious objectors to avoid funding the radical agenda of the unions. You said no court recognizes the religious objector rights of Catholics (not just teachers). I quickly searched for linkable examples and found two, one of which happens to be in education

    Sorry if I mis-edited your comments. I was just trying to condense the discussion. I’m using the term “religious objector” strictly. Just like a Quaker or member of another Peace Church is legally recognized as a religious objector to war, while a Catholic might as an individual object to all war, but the state does not recognize Catholicism as a peace church.

    My reading of the links was that the individuals were not granted a religious exemption from payment of all dues, but allowed a Beck rebate. The person received no support from the Catholic Church as to his opinion.

    while others should be able to negotiate their own terms of employment

    You are going even farther than I am. I have not spoken on what rights non-union members should have. I will note the great majority of blue collar/non-supervisory workers in non-union workplaces are never allowed to even speak with someone who has work terms negotiating authority.

    Are you suggesting that in non-union settings, a job applicant/new hire be given the (currently non-existant) right to actually meet with someone who has the authority to negotiate wages, benefits and other terms of employment? While maybe not unusual for highly skilled professionals, this would be a very radical change for most blue collar workers.

    You’ve yet to answer me, are you in a right-to-work state?

    Nope.

    Not sure which “conservatives” MLK is referring to

    Probably William F. Buckley (Sharon, CT) and Barry Goldwater (Phoenix, AZ).

    Labor was not alone on the liberal side of the great civil rights debates, but I do agree with Dr. King that it was essential to victory and the most effective grassroots organization. A side note, bowling was an entirely segregated sport until the UAW organized the first mixed race bowling leagues. They gave courage for the next group to follow, the CYO.

    Dr. King was killed in Memphis while he was there in support of the AFSCME strike.

    On Alabama:

    Time will tell what the effects of the law is. But like I said, regarding those laws, if they are fair (exceptions to these laws always concern me, as they do you), then it doesn’t matter how many people leave or join the union afterward, just that they have the choice.

    I don’t see how you can be on the fence that Alabama is fair. It is an open shop state. Teachers are allowed to authorize all sorts of deductions from their paychecks like United Way, etc. The Republicans singled out labor unions. The Courts have wisely ruled this is discrimination, as it is.

    Glenn Beck always has something crazy to say. I choose not to listen.

    You are a wise person.

    Can you elaborate on the amendment rights to which you are referring? Is your union prohibited from organizing a boycott?

    Yes. Under federal law it is illegal for a labor union to support in any way a secondary boycott and the Republicans are trying to toughen this law so that any secondary action is covered. Isn’t freedom of speech a First Amendment right?

  • Kurt, I hope you are not still holding your breath. Get the government out of labor. The First Amendment, if taken seriously, demands it. If the free association clause of The First Amendment is to have any meaning at all it should mean that the government is to pass no laws that limit the right of the individual to associate himself with any group, that would have him as a member, and to peaceably advocate for any position he chooses. Regulating a thousand and one exceptions to the First Amendment by implementing laws that tell unions, employees and owners what they can and cannot peaceably do is an anathema to freedom. Republicans and Democrats may seem disagree over what is right or wrong, but they both agree strongly that the government should pick the winners and losers in most any contest. Each faction claims the mantle of freedom but they both want to use the power of the state to control the agenda and each invariably demands that the power of the state be applied to secure the victory of their own side.

  • Martin,

    You have a very good point. This is exactly what Lane Kirkland suggested back when he was President of the AFL-CIO and as far as I know, the offer is still on the table. I can understand, particularly in the past, how the view was taken that labor strife and work stoppages and strikes and secondary boycotts/hot cargo issues drew labor, management and the public to the conclusion that some rules of the game were needed to lessen economic disruption. But the rules have been totally tilted towards the bosses.

    We need to take up the Kirkland offer and just make it an open field. Let labor play hardball as much as it can and see what it gets. No business has to by law recognize a union or allow a NLRB certified election. Labor in turn can use whatever tactic it wills to advance its interests — closed shop, secondary boycott, strikes, hot cargo, political action, shareholder activism, etc.

    I will admit this will probably advantage the skilled trades more than unskilled labor, so its not perfect.

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