Monday, February 12, 2007

Agency Fee Status

Mike at EIA (see blogroll at left) has the following in the February 12th Communique:

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.

Good stuff.


La Maestra said...

This is really interesting food for thought--thank you, Darren! I have to say that I never thought about it from this point of view before.

I don't know how it works in your district, but in mine, people who are agency fee payers (as I know you are) are essentially blacklisted. I don't know of a single AFP who has gone on to earn tenure, and I know there are no currently tenured teachers who are AFPs, although we have a number who vehemently disagree with the union (more on a local level rather than on the state/national level, as you do.)

Our union is strong--extremely strong--for better or for worse. Most of the time, I'm convinced it's the latter, but as I'm getting a raise this year, I probably shouldn't complain. Hey, this is why I stay anonymous!

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for La Maestra. Her district is mean.
I'm an agency fee payer, and no one really cares. Most of my dues is in the coffers, but the political money isn't.
Big Deal and So What?

Black Listed?...I seriously doubt it. She is just offering excuses for why she's sitting on the fence, when she doesn't need to (offer excuses, that is).

Non-agency fee payers who hate the union always offer these flimsy excuses. I doubt if you have suffered through your agency fee payerism...I sure haven't.

Just like the NIKE commercial says - Just Do IT. Try it for one year and see if you're black listed, or whatever injustices described...I seriously doubt it. No one really cares...not even the Union.

I get a raise when everyone else does, but I could probably get more on my own, if I had the opportunity to negotiate my own salary (as charter school teachers do).