What About This…? 8.16.2018

I wrote this article before the election when I was quite sure Proposition A, the “Right to Work” legislation, would pass. Of course it was roundly defeated, which once again proves the strength of my political prognostications.

I wanted to memorialize my reasoning and writing helps with that. I have gone through the article and changed the tenses and so on.

Just as you were, we were inundated with propaganda regarding Proposition A over the last month or so. Just about all media – the mails, television, radio, robo telephone calls, etc. participated, and if you relied simply on that media to understand the measure, good luck!

If you read the full text in the Herald, or the Secretary of State’s synopsis, which seemed to be a reprinting of the text without the definitions, you would know what A proposed, and a few minutes thought would sensitize you to the repercussions of it.

I believed that A, and Senate Bill 19 that it supported, would effectively have done away with unions in our state. How many individuals would pay union dues if their shop enjoyed all the benefits of union negotiation (compensation, working conditions, safety, etc.) and the individual worker was not required to pay those dues?

Are there problems with unions? You bet! We have heard how unions will not stand up for their individual members; will not advocate strikes; are often adverse to work slowdowns; will not negotiate aggressively enough to suit the membership; negotiate too aggressively for excessive demands that force shops to close; support political candidates and positions of which the general membership does not approve; and are frequently cast as being “in the pocket of management”. So are unions and the dues they require a significant waste of workers’ pay?

We might compare union dues to property and income taxes. Do we benefit directly from a large Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and all the other protective and law enforcement entities we have on a continuing everyday basis? If we are older “empty nesters”, home schoolers, etc. do we benefit from public schools? What about roads that go places we’ve never been and never plan to go, ever? Do we directly benefit from elected officials, civil servants, and governmental agencies for which our taxes pay and which operate in ways we often dislike –sometimes intensely dislike?

But a Federal armed force keeps us safe from other counties, police forces protect us from lawbreakers. We all benefit from an educated citizenry. Some roads do go where we wish to travel. Laws sometimes generally and sometimes specifically protect us from wrongdoing, and we benefit from them when lawmakers generate them and law enforcement agencies enforce them.  All that is produced by our taxes.

If we could remain citizens in good standing, not be arrested and sent to jail, not have our property confiscated for non-payment, how many of us would voluntarily pay property and income taxes even knowing, as we must, that if nobody pays, nothing gets done?

All the history buffs out there will recall that we have a Federal Constitution because our first attempt at writing up rules to govern ourselves, the Articles of Confederation, failed miserably chiefly because taxation to support the Confederation was completely voluntary, and hardly anyone paid.

Unions have their problems, as I mentioned. When I was a kid, if one union went  out, the rest did as well. And when the Teamsters struck, nothing went into a shop and nothing left. Unions earned their dues. And to this day, many employers pay union scale wages, meet union working and safety standards, provide other union-type benefits like retirement and apprenticeship programs simply to avoid the potential of having a union voted into their shop.

I did not vote against A because I think unions are doing such a good job for their membership. And I had a problem with forcing workers to pay dues to a union they may have resisted during a shop-wide vote.

I voted against A because I know, as do you, how well collective bargaining has worked out for the individual worker over the last hundred years or so and how powerless that one worker is against management when she stands alone. Those collective bargaining groups, unions, guilds, associations and so on are responsible for the middle class in our country today.

I voted against A because I am an optimist, hoping that unions will recognize the bullet they dodged on August 7, and decide to correct the many problems that bullet represented when unions abdicate their responsibilities to their membership. And if unions do not seize this opportunity, and members continue to oppose the direction union leaders are taking them, the membership has a way to change that leadership, doesn’t it?

Failure of unions to improve will result, with the adoption of an A-like proposition next time, in an even deeper reduction in union membership from the 10% or so of the workforce now represented. Unions will eventually fade away and take the middle class wage earner in our state with them.

Proposition A and Senate Bill 19 that it supported might have resulted in some short-term benefits for wage earners required to pay dues to a union they may have resisted cloaked truthfully in the mantle of “freedom” it offered. But I believe in the long run, which is what our working lives are measured in, Proposition A would have hurt working people in Missouri.

If you voted on Proposition A, which way did you go?