Another year has passed and as we enter 2018, it appears that once again labor is under attack from special interest groups whose main goal is to eliminate the rights of workers to have a united voice in the terms, conditions, and benefits of their employment. Once again, the special interest groups that are funded by large corporations are attempting to make the everyday worker a second class citizen where the employer is free to treat their employees any way they wish and the employee’s only recourse would be to accept the abuse, hire an attorney, or resign.
The new attack comes in the form of an upcoming United States Supreme Court case Janus V. AFSCME. Similar to a couple of years back with the Friedrich Supreme Court case in which labor won, these special interest groups are attempting again to prevent labor organizations from having Agency Shop provisions in the MOUs of represented employee groups. What’s changed? A new appointed Supreme Court justice who was backed by big business and a president who himself controls many corporations and who is an employer himself.
Here is a little history lesson for people who may have forgotten why Agency Shop laws were developed or for those who may not have been employed when these laws were adopted. Prior to Agency Shop, labor organizations were required to negotiate with employers to have a Closed Union Shop. As you can guess, employers were not sympathetic to agreeing to this provision because the end result would be that the labor organization would become stronger. As a result, labor organizations sponsored bills that later became laws that provided for elections of the employees within a bargaining unit to decide if they wanted to have Agency Shop provisions in their contract. Before Agency Shop, now and in the future, there are laws that require labor organizations to represent all employees in the bargaining unit whether they pay dues or not. One interesting point I would like to share is even though we are required to represent everyone in the bargaining unit whether they pay dues or not, when it comes to individual representation issues, the law does not prohibit us from charging the individual. The current charge is $300 per hour payable up front; the choice is the individual’s to make. As a result of these laws, active members overwhelmingly voted in the majority of our bargaining units to approve Agency Shop provisions making it mandatory for everyone to either become a dues paying member in good standing or pay a fee as determined by law for the services that they receive.
As you can guess, there are always a few people who do not like the results of any election that does not go the way they felt it should go. There are people who still feel if they can get something for nothing no matter how it affects the group as a whole it is ok, not realizing that down the road they too will be adversely impacted when there is not a united effort to protect labor laws, negotiate fair contracts, or defend them when they have been falsely accused of wrongdoing resulting in termination of their employment.
The threat is real, and the potential negative effects are most certainly real. If only a few pay for services then those services must be reduced or if there are insufficient resources to fund the operations at all, then those services will go away altogether. This will make some people happy, like big business, employers, and short sighted individuals who don’t feel they need to pay for what they get until it is no longer available. A couple of examples for you to ponder:
1st example – When you build a home or any building you are required by law to pay school fees to support the local school district. Why should I have to support the school district if I don’t plan on having children?
My answer is that this provides a service to the whole community at large that benefits everyone. Through education, we as a society provide for the future needs of the human race even if we have not chosen to add to society.
The narrow minded individual who is only thinking of him/herself answers that he/she shouldn’t have to pay school fees period. It’s not fair and you should not be able to make me. This is supposed to be a free country.
2nd example – This is the United States, Land of the Free and as Americans we have rights. As Americans why are there laws that require me to have medical insurance? Why as an employer are there laws that say that I must provide health insurance to my employees? Why are there laws that require hospitals to treat individuals if they have no means of paying for my services? Why as a tax payer do I need to pay taxes for public health facilities that I have no plans to use?
Again my answer is that we live in a society that needs to address the population as a whole. Failure to address the medical needs of the community will result in the systematic destruction of the human race. Failure to have laws that protect the community or group of individuals will result in the loss of much needed protections for everyone whether you are using those protections now, in the future, or never. Without everyone paying their fair share as required by law these needs of the community at large cannot be met resulting in widespread illness, disease, death, and again eventually the failure of us to be a civilized society. Just another 3rd world country.
The self-serving individual who is only thinking of himself answers that this is a free country; I should not be legally required to pay, participate, or care. I have rights. These laws infringe on my rights. But I still want to be afforded my medical needs even if I do not have insurance or want to pay taxes for these services. You know, survival of the fittest unless of course it is me.
Local 620 existed before Agency Shop and we will exist if the Supreme Court rules against us thanks to the majority of the individuals we represent understanding the need for employees to form, participate, and support the needs of their coworkers and themselves through organized labor organizations. What is needed is continued education of our coworkers, willingness to work for the best interest of the group as a whole, understanding that you may not always get what you want and to stay united no matter what narrow-minded self-serving individuals or special interest groups say or do.
Local 620 is dedicated to providing meaningful, quality service to our members and our communities. We look forward to involvement and interaction with members both in a group setting and one on one. We value your constructive input, and suggestions, and we encourage you to participate in your union.
Bruce Corsaw, Executive Director