The largely right-wing U.S. Supreme Court is poised to potentially deal a potentially devastating blow to public-sector labor unions by possibly ruling that it violates the First Amendment rights of those whose jobs are covered by the public-sector unions to have to pay a “fair share” of what it costs the unions to collectively bargain and otherwise do business that benefits the workers the unions cover.
First, let me note that in general I’m pro-union. In the aftermath of the decimation of the middle class since the Reagan era, the worker has no other entity working on his or her side.
That said, so many labor unions, at least public-sector unions, have become less and less about working for the workers and more and more about benefiting those at the top of the unions, à la something right out of Animal Farm.
I have watched my public-sector union, Service Employees International Union, go downhill over the past many years.
Nationally, SEIU’s top “leaders” decide on presidential endorsements, giving us rank-and-file members — you know, those of us whose dues pay their salaries — no vote whatsofuckingever. (SEIU, without a vote of its rank-and-file members, endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, which I agreed with at that time, but then, again with no vote of the membership, endorsed his re-election in 2012, which I didn’t agree with, as Obama hadn’t delivered on his promises to the labor movement, and for this year, SEIU, yet once again without a vote of its rank-and-file members, has endorsed Billary Clinton, which has outraged me and many, many other SEIU members who want Bernie Sanders, not Democrat in name only Billary.)
Locally, my state’s SEIU “leaders,” after they won re-election in a low-turnout election in May 2015, decided to try to give themselves five- and six-digit raises that they dishonestly have called “stipends.” (Because of the backlash, they have failed — thus far.) Locally, my state’s SEIU is far more about benefiting its president and her cronies than it is about the union members’ best interests.
This has been the case for some years now. When former California Gov. Arnold “Baby Daddy” Schwarzenegger, starting in 2008, shit and pissed all over SEIU members, such as by imposing first one, then two, then three furlough days (forced days off without pay) a month and illegally eliminating two state holidays, SEIU’s “leadership,” including its current president, who had taken the reins before Baby Daddy’s attacks, were fairly worthless.
Apparently SEIU sued unsuccessfully (apparently bungled its legal action), but SEIU overall was way too quiet in fighting the illegitimate Schwarzenegger administration’s onslaught against its members. When we dues-paying union members really needed our union to fight for us, the union did not fight for us in a meaningful way.
And the union hasn’t improved much, if any, since then. If SEIU here in California seems better now, it’s most likely due mostly or entirely to the fact that the state’s finances rebounded after Democrat Jerry Brown came back to the governorship in January 2011, turning the “Baby Daddy” Schwarzenegger state budget deficits into state budget surpluses in rather short order.
I acknowledge that in an economic downturn, union leaders feel that they have to be careful not to alienate the populace by refusing to sacrifice anything, but history has demonstrated amply that once something is taken away, it can be very difficult if not impossible to get it back. This is how the right wing operates, and without effective opposition, the right wing gets its way.
What infects SEIU, nationally and, in my case, locally, is what infects so many organizations whose intended creation was to help people: The organizations over time become more and more and more about their well-paid “leaders” and less and less and less about the organizations’ missions and those whom the organizations are supposed to help.
Dissenters are pushed out as the self-serving “leaders” feather their nests, intending on keeping the game — pretending to be doing their jobs when they’re only primarily benefiting themselves — going for as long as they possibly can.
If feathering their own nests means selling their membership out to the powers that be, then the “leaders” of these organizations will do it.
So: When I read that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to perhaps rule that public-sector unions throughout the United States may not collect a “fair share” from any worker who does not want to contribute it, knowing how horribly SEIU has acted over the many past years that it has been “my” union, I can’t say that I’m all that distraught. (And I’d prefer to be distraught, because if SEIU had been doing its job over these past many years, I would be distraught.)
SEIU endorses presidential candidates without giving me a vote on the matter, even though it gladly takes my money every month, and when the local SEIU was tested by “Baby Daddy” Schwarzenegger, it failed miserably — but its “leaders” want to give themselves big raises nonetheless.
What, exactly, do I need SEIU for? Apparently I’ve only been one of its huge herd of cash cows.
If nothing else, let this Supreme Court case, if “fair share” is shot down, be a wake-up call to the many labor unions throughout the United States that have calcified and grown complacent, that have become far more about benefiting the “leadership” than benefiting the membership.
If we don’t see much backlash to a Supreme Court ruling that “fair share” violates the First Amendment — and I predict that we won’t/wouldn’t — in no tiny part it would be because the unions stopped being effective for their members years ago. They — we — have felt about as used, abused and screwed by our own unions as we have been by our corporate overlords.
For now, for years now I’ve been paying full monthly membership dues to SEIU (the dues are taken out of my paycheck automatically), but because SEIU has been making presidential endorsements on my behalf without giving me a vote — yes, that’s just like taxation without representation — I have been considering investigating if I can opt out of contributing to SEIU’s political activity. (I [probably] agree with most of SEIU’s political activity on the state level, but not giving me a vote in the union’s presidential endorsement is unfuckingacceptable.)
If the Supreme Court rules in the not-too-distant future that I don’t have to give SEIU a penny, not even my “fair share,” will I give SEIU a penny?
Right now, I lean toward not.
And that’s SEIU’s fault, not mine. I’m more than happy to pay for a benefit. How the calcified, self-serving, selling-out-its-membership SEIU is benefiting me is harder for me to see with each passing year.
P.S. “Unions fear the potential loss of tens of millions of dollars in fees could reduce their power to bargain for higher wages and benefits for teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and other government employees,” notes The Associated Press of the Supreme Court’s possible axing of the “fair share.”
(The Supreme Court case, by the way, originated here in California, apparently by some anti-union wingnut in wingnutty Orange County who opposes the California Teachers Association.)
The AP notes that since Michigan became a so-called “right-to-work” state in 2013, “Membership in the Michigan Education Association has since dropped by 19 percent.” That doesn’t strike me as a devastating drop.
It’s hard to say how much membership in my local SEIU would drop were the “fair share” to be eliminated. I don’t imagine that very many of those now legally required to pay the “fair share” but who don’t want to give a penny to the union will continue to pay the union a penny when/if they no longer have to. (But they’re not union members, so their no longer paying their “fair share” wouldn’t represent a drop in membership.)
And the Supreme Court’s elimination of “fair share” altogether would induce me, I surmise, to give a long, hard look at whether I find enough benefit in SEIU to continue to be a full dues-paying member.
At some point, you really become beyond sick and tired of being a perpetually punk’d and chumped cash cow.