Friday, July 25, 2014

Duff on Harris

DuffMichael Duff (Wyoming) recently posted Beneath the Veneer of Harris v. Quinn in the ClassismExposed blog.  In the post, Duff puts forth what is a fairly controversial view for a union supporter: that reliance on agency fees is a bad idea for labor, which would not be mortally wounded had the Court gone all the way in Harris and declared public-sector agency fees unconstitutional.  

To me, this issues pulls in others questioning the exclusivity principle in labor law.  I'm still of a mixed mind on what would happen if exclusivity fell away, but that may be where we're headed.  Certainly, unions would have more legitimacy if they only represented and collected dues from supporters.  That said, opposition to unions won't be going away.  Moreover, it's unclear to me how widespread members-only bargaining would work in practice.  To my mind, there's still free-rider aspects to that kind of bargaining (e.g., employers are likely to extend union wages across-the-board), although that doesn't mean non-exclusive bargaining isn't superior.  At base, it all really goes to the heart of what we mean by "collective" representation and whether an individualistic America still supports it in its current form. But enough of me--here's a sample of Duff's post:

I, a friend of the labor movement, oppose [agency fees] on strategic grounds.

First, I have never though it looked good even to elements within the working class to require membership or even payment of an agency fee.

Second, in my opinion, any union that relies on government power for support or dues collection is in big trouble in the long run. What the government giveth today it may taketh away tomorrow, and I simply do not trust or seek to rely upon the forces I believe have utterly captured government.

Finally, if a union really believes that ending the practice of requiring payment of dues or agency fees dues will cause members to stop paying dues, or nonmembers not to seek (eventually) membership, what kind of strength can that union actually have? Does anyone believe that such a union could, for example, motivate employees to take the risk inherent in collective action—the kind of risk that built the labor movement (think, for example, of the sit down strikes in Flint, Michigan) and that will soon be required again? You do not have to require working class fire breathers to pay dues and non-members in a workplace in which the union diligently fights for members will want to join. If this is not the state of things unions will lose every big fight since success comes from the working class intensity of the membership, not from the micro-tactics of leadership.

Read the entire thing!

-JH

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/2014/07/duff-on-harris.html

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Comments

Welcome to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, Michael!

Seriously, though: aside from the gratuitous smears reflecting union-boss slanders of those who support worker freedom --- who could, by the same reasoning, simply be recognized as the Marxists they are, seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the worker (see? Two can play that game) --- Professor Duff makes the very same points always made by Right to Work advocates against forced-unionism schemes.

And I'd certainly like to know who these "impartial observers" are who "have more or less conceded that non-members should for reasons of fairness pay for the costs of 'representation.'" I don't know who they are --- note that there is no link to even one of them --- and I suspect that even a cursory check would demonstrate that they are decidedly not "impartial," any more than Professor Duff is "impartial."

And I would dispute the notion that "Received wisdom on ... the Right was that a full victory by the RTW forces would have sounded the death knell of the labor movement." Indeed, I have largely disputed that contention every time I have heard it, except to note that it is a telling admission by those on the Left who support forced-unionism schemes.

Posted by: James Young | Jul 31, 2014 10:39:28 AM

Jim,
We are all a part of the vast right wing conspiracy whether we like it or not. A union shop on steroids. Let's get our 19th century philosophers straight. Like Gompers, I'm much more a Herbert Spencer man. I believe in punching the guy in the mouth who is planning to punch me in the mouth before he is able to do it. I am often accused of not giving enough thought to what happens next. "Impartial observers" include most of the courts that have ever decided the issue.You are right -I'm not impartial and have never claimed to be. I'm on the side of people you probably would not ride next to on a bus (if you would ride on a bus). But, hey, I don't really know you and I could be completely wrong about that part. But there are definitely people I wouldn't ride next to in a limousine (if anyone would ever let me in a limousine). The "received wisdom" thing. On the day the case was being argued I saw the larger than life banner of Fox News reports about 15 times while in the midst of my 75 minute aerobic workout (I could not hear the report) reading "The end of the labor movement?" The communication suggested something received, if not wise. I think you need to reflect on the meaning of the word "admission." As I'm wont to say, "A day without Jim Young is like a day without sunshine."

Mike

Posted by: Michael C. Duff | Aug 2, 2014 12:17:13 PM

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