Tuesday, November 6, 2007

HB 265: At last the General Assembly admits workers have rights!

Okay, first some truth in advertising: I run a labor union in my spare time.

I know it’s not politically correct for a Libertarian to run a labor union, but there it is. I’m the current president of the Delaware State University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (which is a longish way of saying, “the faculty union”).

A long time ago I did not believe in unions for professionals, and I have certainly never believed in compulsory union membership (the traditional “closed shop”) or even the bastardized “agency shop” that Delaware has heretofore allowed.

But when I encountered the current administration at DSU, I changed my mind. Sometimes only collective bargaining stands between employees and employers with radically different perceptions of what it means to follow a contract. That, however, is story for another day.

What Representative Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) has proposed is to make Delaware a formal “right to work” state. If HB 265 becomes law, nobody can be coerced into becoming a union member or paying fees to a union for representation that it’s legally obligated to provide.

This is good law, based on a foundational Libertarian premise: Coercion is not good public policy.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that this is the death of effective unions in Delaware. Without coercion, labor organizations have to depend on the logic of their arguments and the quality of their service to maintain and grow a membership. At DSU, where membership has never been compulsory, we’ve grown our rolls by dozens of new dues-paying members over the past year. For part of that I thank our administration, which has often been our best recruiter; the rest I attribute to the fact that union officers know that they are accountable to a membership that walks if they’re dissatisfied with their representation.

Unions that are effective in representing their members without destroying the organizations with which they are associated won’t be harmed by the passage of this bill.

The only thing that bothers me is that it makes too much sense for the legislature to pass it.

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