There seems to be consensus on one point concerning the Wisconsin public-sector union debate. That is that nobody can agree what the major sticking point is. The initial claim was that the union refused to accept concessions requiring the rank and file members to contribute to their own pensions and health care in order to assist the State of Wisconsin balance its budget. They have since agreed to this. Now we are hearing it’s about the right to collectively bargain. First responders would not be affected, however the remainder would only be able to bargain for wages and not benefits. You can read the bill here to see for yourself.

I think there is a bigger issue at play here. One that will have a greater effect on union leadership than the members themselves. That is the opt-out clause. Governor Walker has included the option for people to stop contributing dues to the union, yet remain a member. This explains why the state legislators are going to the mat on this one. This explains why Obama has inserted himself in the center of the debate. As always, follow the money. Union dues are how union leaders get to live their lavish lifestyles filled with perks. Even more importantly, it’s a major source of money used for political campaigns in order to get democrats re-elected.

This is where the Governor has “crossed” the line. Asking for concessions to balance the budget and restricting collective bargaining rights are issues that are damaging to the rank and file. But the sacred cow is the money stream. This affects the elite and they don’t like it at all. Now, of course they don’t sell it this way to the rank and file. They are told that the main issue is the right to collectively bargain for their benefits. This is what will get them riled up the most and get them out in the streets marching and protesting and closing down schools from sick-outs. Allowing the dues opt-out would actually put money in the members pockets, however, at the expense of politicians and union leaders. No way can they promote that as the core issue.

So the talking points will read that it’s an “assault” on families and an attempt to snuff out the voice of the union worker. That message is one that will resonate as the union leaders attempt to take this fight nationwide. Members of any union, public or private, will seize on that as a rallying point. But whatever wages or benefits that members receive through collective bargaining don’t affect union leaders or politicians in the way that reducing dues money does. Not to mention, those who elect the opt-out clause get to remain members of the union and enjoy whatever other benefits remain. Publicly, they must say that is their priority, but is it really? Money talks.

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13 thoughts on “The union fight is about dues, just follow the money

  1. Are you serious that Walker is proposing an “opt-out” clause? While I support right-to-work laws (no one should be forced to join a group to take a given job unless the employer agrees), I also don’t support telling a private organization that it mus admit non-paying members. I’m not a big fan of union tactics and influence, but they’re still private organizations that should be permitted to set their own rules for membership. Perhaps I’m missing something here.

    You’re right, however, that “follow the money” is a guiding principal of American politics.

  2. From page 2 of the proposed bill.

    “Current law provides that state and municipal employees who are represented
    by a labor organization have the organization dues deducted from their salaries.
    Except for salary deductions for public safety employees, this bill prohibits the salary
    deductions for labor organization dues. This bill also allows a general employee to
    refrain from paying dues and remain a member of a collective bargaining unit.”

  3. I think right to work should be the law in all 50 states. Actually, I can’t believe we allow unions to force a worker to join their organization before they can be employed in certain jobs. Taking away an individual’s freedom to choose is never a good thing.

  4. You may get your wish Larry. The public doesn’t support them and if they continue to try to expand this across the country, it will likely backfire.

  5. My understanding was that would mean that unions would have to collect dues on their own, and the state would no longer do it for them. The last sentence is already in place in the private work force (it was the situation at Newport News Shipbuilding where I once worked). Basically the union contract applied to all steel workers, for example, even non-union. The non-union workers were part of the “collective bargaining unit” in the sense that they worked under the contract, but they weren’t in the union, and didn’t receive any of the benefits of union membership – such as voting on the union negotiators.

  6. I’ll have to agree to disagree. The specific verbage in the pending bill states “This bill also allows a general employee to
    refrain from paying dues and remain a member of a collective bargaining unit.”

    While in the sentence prior it addresses your point of the state no longer collecting dues on behalf of the union through direct deposit, the sentence above makes it clear to me that one can flat-out refuse paying dues at all and still remain a member. It doesn’t specify that the union must collect dues on their own.

  7. To be honest, I don’t know that it matters. Whether it’s dues money that drives them or not, the results that you point out are what matters. We can all see which way the winds of change are blowing and they don’t favor the unions.

  8. I agree, not to mention we don’t even have a bill passed into law to examine yet. What stays in and what gets tossed is certain to be different than what we’ve seen so far.

  9. I want to apologize. I heard on CNBC last night that you are correct that Walker wants unions to accept members who don’t pay dues. My thinking went down the other path because of my experience at the shipyard where non-union workers were covered by the contract but didn’t participate with the union in any way (picnics, etc.).

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