Living in Society Work Life

Fair Share Ten Years Later

email-iconFrom:       Paul Deaton
Sent:         Monday, Jan. 15, 2007 7:13 PM
To:            Rod Sullivan
Subject:   RE: Sullivan’s Salvos


I like your analysis of Fair Share, but I see some problems, and offer some friendly comments.

I have been on just about every side of the union issue, beginning with my membership in what was then called the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America in 1971 (where I hold a retirement card). I worked at the University of Iowa while AFSCME unsuccessfully tried to organize us in the early ’80s, and supervised groups of teamsters from Local 238 in Cedar Rapids, and Local 142 in Philadelphia. In Philadelphia I negotiated the contract with the local BM. My mechanics signed cards when I ran a trucking terminal near Chicago, and ultimately decided the teamsters union was not for them. Based on this experience, I know a bit about unions.

When you mentioned Chris Rants was against Fair Share, my reaction is to support it. I see some problems with the Fair Share approach, though.

When employees agree to enable a third party to represent them, that is their decision. To be successful, a union has to provide value. I think it would be kidding ourselves to say the union could only represent its dues paying members. How would this be administered? Could another group of employees, dissatisfied with union A organize with union B because union A wasn’t serving their needs? Maybe, but that would not be good for employees, and I think that may be preempted by union A having a contract. In order to be successful with a third party negotiating for them, employees need to be together on issues, including belonging to the union and paying dues.

I don’t think you want a menu option for employees either, for the same reason. If I know that I can buy a union service, cafeteria style, then I believe many employees would choose that option as cheaper than paying dues, hoping they don’t need the services. I find this to be the case with young people who work with me now. They don’t pay the co-pay on health insurance hoping they won’t need it. Again employees need to be together on issues to make an effective bargaining unit.

Fair Share seems to assume at some level that people can’t get together on issues. That is increasingly true if we encourage diversity in the workforce. To the extent a union does not represent the needs and wants of employees, it becomes ineffective. I would make the case that Fair Share, while its cause may be justifiable, actually may be against the core principle of organized labor, that is joining together for a common cause. I don’t believe unions want to be in the business of fee for services.

I hope you find these comments of interest, and I hope you are staying warm now that winter is finally here.

Regards, Paul