Friday, July 25, 2014
Michael 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!