Friday, July 25, 2008

Union Dues Mandatory in NY State - Not a Great Thing for UFT Democracy

Gov. Patterson made the agency shop a permanent law in NY State, which means people must pay union dues even if they don't join the union (it had to be renewed regularly for 30 years.) The agency shop makes sense in that the union negotiates for everyone. Union supporters, even those in opposition to the leadership, generally support the concept, which goes along with dues checkoff where dues are automatically deducted from the paycheck.

And I still support it.

Sort of...

....when I see the wonderful use of those dues to fuel the Unity patronage machine. And those all expense paid junkets to AFT and NYSUT conventions for 800 Unity Caucus members. (Check those wonderful salaries posted from the 2006 LM2 on the bottom of the sidebar.)

....and when our union is a monarchy, we wonder if there might be a tad more democracy and accountability if the UFT actually had to compete to get people to pay dues.

Sean Ahern has a few more words over at ICE-mail where he points out that transit worker's TWU Local 100 still hasn't had its dues checkoff rights returned since their strike a few years ago, which has caused tremendous stresses in the union. While the dues checkoff is a major convenience to unions, it also functions as a noose and is a major deterence to the right to strike, which means unions have no real weapon in negotiations. The stacked courts can even use job actions as an excuse to cripple a union. I guess truly "permanent" would mean just that, as Sean points out - meaning, dues checkoff can't be taken away.

I'm sure UFT members can come up with variations of this cartoon.

Sean touches on the accountability issue:

The dues stream, the real estate holdings, the insurance plans, the retirement system of the UFT, the city's largest union local, is a web of interests defining the "bottom line" to be protected by the leadership. Our union assumes a corporate identity, another self serving 'special interest', a collection of trade union bureaucrats and hangers on, instead of a mass organization for the advancement of mutually agreed upon goals. Our union today is an institution that can not simply be changed by voting in new leadership. A change in leadership, a strike and subsequent detachment from the dues stream is not a sufficient guarantee that a union leadership will be accountable to the membership.


The UFT has lost dues checkoff in the past and there is no way we will ever see the leadership go near a strike again with that threat hanging over them. Can you just imagine the chaos in the halls of 52 Broadway when people might actually have to go back and work in a school?

As usual, Sean finishes up by drilling right down to the race issue with his unique single-minded approach.

Read the article and Sean's comments over at Norm's Notes.

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