Saturday, May 24, 2008

A double-barreled unionizng idea?

Newt “Grinch-rich” recently argued against card check legislation on the basis that 90-95% of American want employees to be able to choose whether or not unionize by majority vote (forgetting to mention that card check legislation is actually a last-gasp way get around the road blocks set to block free elections in America’s uniquely vicious anti-labor climate). This sparked a double-duty idea on how to both pave the way for massive and truly free unionization and to incentivize union leadership to maintain top performance in service of their membership long after unionization has settled in.

The first thing I thought to say to “Grinch-rich” was that if 90-95% of Americans want employees to be able to decide on unionization by majority vote wouldn’t that make it logical for him to support a mandatory vote on unionization at every work place every few years – just as we have fixed interval votes for public office (you don’t have to run a gauntlet to vote for the next mayor every few years).

Since I knew that voting for or against union certification is the last Newty would really want I thought he might challenge me (in this imaginary confrontation) by asking would I support the same every so many year vote at workplaces that are already unionized – which at first I thought I would oppose because I feared it could weaken labor’s overall bargaining muscle in the free market.

On second thought, one of the most damaging objections (the most damaging objection?) that some people make to unionization is their previous bad experience with some union leadership that had become entrenched and (as humans in any capacity have the tendency to do) had become bureaucratic and aloof from the concerns of their members.

The surest way to bring such labor leadership up to snuff might be for them to face re-certification elections, say, every four years. There may not be any other way for labor membership to incentivize poor leadership – unlike politics in union elections there is rarely any automatic source of opposition (I would dare say it is rare enough to make the papers when it happens). On the other hand there is no practical fear that any reasonably hard working leadership would face de-certification.

Cyclical certification elections could fit hand-in-glove with a version of the “labor saving device” I that I push: sector-wide labor agreements (collective-collective bargaining) – the end of the race to the bottom all over the better paid world outside the USA – wherein everybody working at the same occupation for different in the same geographic locale works under a single-contract.

Under the French-Canadian version (which I call “sector-wide lite”) non-union firms must work under the terms of labor contracts worked out by non-union firms. Under “sector-wide lite” decertifying employees would not have to worry about being left out in the cold because they would still be covered by the contracts of the strongest bargainers: keeping the pressure high on any leadership who might otherwise become calcified and complacent.

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