Agency Fee Battles in Iowa and Maine. There's a big stink in Iowa about a proposed agency fee law (see here and here), but this isn't news to EIA readers (see Item #5). As is usual with stories about agency fee, reporters missed an important detail. A similar fracas in Maine gets closer to the point, but fails to mention it flat out.
The standard union talking point on agency fee is that non-members are freeloading on the benefits they receive from union representation.
"I think it's unfair to the people who pay dues," said one Iowa State Education Association member. "I've felt strongly for a long time that these people are basically getting a free ride on the back of the dues-paying members."
This is arguable on its face, but let's skip that and get to the question of why unions would be forced by law to represent non-members, regardless of whether they pay a fee or not. Despite what you're hearing, it's not because evil politicians want to destroy unions.
The duty of fair representation – that is, the requirement to look after all workers in a bargaining unit - is the price a union pays in exchange for its exclusive status (the reason it was created is edifying). The union receives the legal privilege of preventing any individual or agent or organization from negotiating pay and working conditions with the employer. If unions really thought non-members were moochers, they have a simple way to remedy the situation that doesn't involve state laws and millions in political contributions: Cut them loose and let them sink or swim on their own.
Ah, but then you'd have competition for representation. Some people might negotiate their own terms of employment. Others might hire an agent. More likely, they would bring in a competing union.
Whether this would actually create chaos, as school administrators and union officials claim, will probably not be debated. Nor will the question of the marginal costs for the union of negotiating a contract that covers non-members. Nor the question of the actual amount of money unions spend processing grievances of non-members. Let the battles begin.