Whither the dues check-off?

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onlinediscountanvils
Whither the dues check-off?

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onlinediscountanvils

Sam Gindin: [url=http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/785.php]Ending the Dues Check-Off: Forcing Union Renewal?[/url]

onlinediscountanvils

I know I'm posting this very last minute, but if you're in Ottawa with free time on your hands tonight...

[url=http://rabble.ca/whatsup/book-launch-rethinking-politics-labour-canada]Book Launch: Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada[/url]

Quote:
In the face of relentless attacks on organized labour, there is a clear need and desire for both union renewal and for unions to fight back against the  anti-worker austerity agenda. Within this context, a confrontation looms on the horizon as the Conservative government is poised to eliminate the automatic dues check-off (the “Rand Formula”), which has been a cornerstone of union security for decades.

As unions gear up in defence of automatic dues-checkoff, some labour activists are questioning their efforts. They believe that the Rand formula has created bureaucratic unions that are disconnected from their memberships. Losing Rand could in fact contribute to the process of union renewal, they argue.

 

Panelists:

Stephanie Ross (York University) - Editor of Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada

Donald Swartz and Rosemary Warskett (Carleton University) - contributors to Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada

John Hollingsworth - member/activist with COPE Local 225 and the Ottawa-Outaouais Industrial Workers of the World

kropotkin1951

So the answer to excessive bureaucracy in unions (a problem in many unions) is to have union activists spending their time once a month collecting dues from members who have more bills than money?  Without the Rand formula the current union movement will be knee capped and destroyed.  The emphasis for unions will switch to getting members to pay their dues and the unions that survive will likely be even more bureaucratic since the pencil pushers will be even more in control.

Unionist

Why not decertify all the unions and make them sign up a majority and have a secret ballot? That's democracy.

Why not repeal the law saying that employers must bargain with the certified union and must not make side deals with individual workers? That'll force the unions right back to their roots.

Getting rid of the Rand formula has worked really well in right-to-work jurisdictions. It has spawned powerful, democratic, transparent, militant, activist unions. Right?

Ok, I'm done. I have always admired Sam Gindin. But I think he's losing it.

 

kropotkin1951

Unionist did you read past the first paragraph? He is not advocating any of the things you highlight in your post.  I thought he raised some good points. Renewing the union movement in Canada is going to take some bold action and not the same type of rear guard actions that it has been engaged in over the last two decades as the leadership has moved steadily backwards one minor concession at a time.

Sam Gindin wrote:

There is no disagreement that having to collect dues directly from the members would put the union in constant contact with the members and it would give individual workers greater control over what happens with their dues. But greater contact does not necessarily mean better contact. It is not obvious that having to regularly collect dues is the best way, or even an especially good way, to communicate with members and increase leadership accountability. If shop stewards are primarily acting as a collection agency, they may end up harassing workers rather than involving them. And it will often be much more productive to focus on issues without the collection of dues getting in the way. Moreover, if workers can individually withhold their dues, this may only open the door to greater fragmentation. Rather than taking an issue to a membership meeting where a binding collective decision is made, some workers might just refuse to pay because they are peeved that their personal priority was not a collective priority.

As a tactical question, the relevance of how dues are collected is a matter of context, of place and historical moment. In India, the dynamic new labour central, the NTUI (New Trade Union Initiative) has from the beginning collected dues one member at a time and this seems to work well; the union is actively opposed to moving to the check-off system. Yet if Canadian and American unions lost their check-off, the decline of trade unionism would only be amplified. Given the current weakness of unions as a social force, the aggressiveness of business and state attacks on unions, alongside the problematic commitment of the members to an institution they are not sure can deliver, the capacity of unions to adjust to the loss of automatic dues would at best be questionable.

Unionist

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Unionist did you read past the first paragraph? He is not advocating any of the things you highlight in your post.  I thought he raised some good points. Renewing the union movement in Canada is going to take some bold action and not the same type of rear guard actions that it has been engaged in over the last two decades as the leadership has moved steadily backwards one minor concession at a time.

Oh lord, I had a feeling I shouldn't have used sarcasm.

Yes, I read the whole article. Yes, I realize (obviously) that Sam is not advocating a single one of the things I raised, including abolishing the Rand formula. But some people are clearly comfortable with it (see ODA's "book launch", advertised on rabble). And what they share with Sam (although he doesn't agree with them) is the notion that a monstrous onslaught against the union movement is somehow an opportunity for renewal, etc. etc.

I don't agree. When attacked, you must defend. Renewal is a separate and necessary process. But being stabbed in the back is not an "opportunity" to grow stronger and learn to live with a punctured back.

Unions must do all the things that Sam recommends, and much more. Some of them appear to recognize that - see for example the upcoming creation of a "new" union by CAW and CEP, whose name is schedule to be announced Thursday, and which will enshrine supposedly a new "membership" concept which transcends the state-licenced certified bargaining unit concept. I don't know how serious the leadership is, but it must be inspiring for the workers, and maybe they'll embrace it.

But defence is defence. The unions must do everything, and ally with anyone [yuck!], in order to defeat the "right to work" attack.

Proof? The fate of the U.S. labour movement. That was my point. I confess I made it badly, and I may be wrong.

 

kropotkin1951

My wife went to a regional conference about the new merged union that she now belongs to.  It is interesting stuff and in some respects harkens back to the era when unions were illegal and so they offered workers services through benevolent societies. She liked it because as a CEP union activist she has been vocal about some of the things that are proposed and so she felt a pride of ownership.

onlinediscountanvils

The book launch "book launch" was video-recorded. I'll try to remember to post it here when it becomes available. Or maybe rabble already plans to post it. It was a good event. Not as scary as the quote suggests.

Caissa

Parenthetically, I attended my first union meeting in 26 years, yesterday. We were the only non-unionized group on campus until a successful union drive took place last fall leading to certification in March. They estimate it may take 1.5-2 years to bargain the first contract given the experience they are having with a similar group at St. Thomas University. I have been asked to consider becoming a shop steward, a position I haven't held in 26 years. The last time I was in a uniojn I was the local president, more than half a life-time ago.