Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Fair share" Court Decision: A Letter to the Chicago Tribune by Richard Palzer

The issue of "fair share" fees that unions collect from nonmembers to help defray collective bargaining costs has unnecessarily been elevated to one involving First Amendment protections. As you agree in your March 30 "Brushing off freedoms" editorial, requiring such fees is reasonable because those represented by the unions benefit from collective bargaining negotiations. The sticking point in the case in question, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, revolves around the lead plaintiff's complaint that the benefits aren't "worth the moral costs," citing the defined benefit retirement system and protection of poor teachers. 

I don't question her sincerity or her intentions and do respect her moral quandary. But she is represented by a duly elected union, and as such, is much in the position of taxpayers who feel their tax money is being spent for purposes with which they disagree, even on moral grounds.
Taxpayers don't have the option to withhold taxes from the government because of their disagreement. Her position also sounds a lot like minority voters' whose Party has been defeated by the majority of voters. In this case, however, defeated voters do have the options of leaving that Party or working within it to effect change, which seem to me to be her most viable alternatives.

Molding this case into "workers' rights to free speech and free association" not only is a stretch but also plays into the Tribune's—and Governor Rauner's (no surprise there)—  negative views of public sector unions. The Governor's unabashed agenda is anti-union, and the steps he's advocated are ones he knows will eventually destroy them. That's what's behind his "right-to-work" proposal (which is a misnomer for "right-to-freeride") and this latest one, the decrying of the reasonable "fair share," both of which effectively reduce membership and funds.

But the single, most significant attack, his always-included poison pill responsible for the continuing political gridlock over the entire State budget, is his "my-way-or-the-highway" demand to take away collective bargaining: he says until and unless the unions surrender their right to collective bargaining, he'll continue holding the budget hostage. It's called "collective bargaining" for a reason; once one side, in this case the Governor's, can decide what can and can't be negotiated, it devolves into unilateral dictating. "So, unions, let's negotiate--but pay and benefits are off the table." Rather hard to negotiate, to compromise, under an existential threat, don't you think? Please reconsider your one-sided advocacy. 

—Richard Palzer

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