As I live in a "fair share" state, I must pay union dues even though I don't officially belong to a union. Each year I have to request a refund of that portion of dues that the union spent on activities outside of representation and collective bargaining.
Last October I wrote a post expressing mild surprise at the increase in refunded money over the previous year. I also surmised that part of the reason for the increase is a new form the union must submit to the Department of Labor outlining how it spends its money. It's much harder to lie when you have to document.
How are these refund amounts calculated? Well, the union claims (categorically) a ridiculously small percentage that it spends on left-wing politics and donations and the like, a lawsuit gets filed, and it goes to binding arbitration. An arbiter makes the final determination about the refunded amount.
Two years ago, about 40% of my union dues was refunded. Last October, about 48% of my union dues was refunded. Again, I attributed the increase to election year spending and the Labor Department reporting requirement.
Today I got the arbiter's report for the 2006-2007 school year, which money will be refunded to me this fall. This year my refund will be about 44%. As my union dues approach $1000 per school year, that's no small chunk of change.
Still, does it seem at all reasonable that a union should spend 44% of its money on activities not related to collective bargaining and representation?
There's a flaw in this process, by the way. Who is required to pay the arbiter? The union is. As a result, the arbiter is beholden to the union--if they don't decide in a manner the union likes, perhaps the union will choose a different, more friendly, arbitration organization next year. It's in the arbiter's best interest not to ding the union too much. As a result, the true percentage of union money that goes to "outside" activities is most assuredly higher than 44%.