Thursday, December 26, 2013

The balkanization of Delaware and WNJ accuracy

This really should be two separate posts, but what the hell it's December 26.

First, the idea of creating "right to work zones" in Delaware makes about as much sense as the proposed legislation to allow each community to set its own firearms laws.

Delaware is far too small to be balkanized, and the ridiculous implications that would follow from either proposal are too numerous to mention, so I will content myself with one each:

1) If we enact "right to work zones," what happens to an already unionized company performing a contracted construction job in that zone, or an already unionized company that has multiple sites within the state, but only one of which falls into the zone?  You don't have to be either a fan or opponent of unions to realize that the variety of unworkable situations that could come out of such legislation are legion.

2) If we enact community-based gun laws, guess what?  You could inadvertently be engaging in illegal activity by simply traveling from Dover to Milford, or up Kirkwood Highway from Newark to Wilmington.  For example, suppose two different communities enact different laws on carrying a handgun in your vehicle.  One (ala South Carolina) says any handgun not in the trunk must be in plain sight (on the seat), while the other (ala North Carolina) says any handgun not in the trunk must be in the glove compartment or a locked container.  As I found out many years ago when I lived on the border between these two states, the implications from such legislation are both bizarre and unfortunate.

Now, to the News Journal and accuracy.  In the story regarding the "right to work zones" there is this sentence:
Current Delaware law does not allow workers in union workplaces to opt out of joining a union or paying dues.
Actually, this is not correct--not even really close.  Delaware is not a "right to work" state, but a sometimes frustrating hybrid, and the realities cannot be accurately summarized in such a sentence.

For example, the statewide teachers' union--DSEA--is an "agency shop."  As a new teacher (or even an old one) you DO NOT have to join DSEA.  But even if you elect not to join, you still have to pay an "agency fee" to cover costs of DSEA being prepared to represent you in a labor or disciplinary dispute. You CAN opt out of all the money DSEA spends on political campaigns, although in so doing you also lose the ability to vote for officers and vote on contracts.  (And, yes, I know that a new teacher without tenure would be suicidally stupid NOT to join DSEA and thereby piss off all the senior teachers in the building, but we are talking about what the law provides here.)

For another example, if the union contract with the employer is so written, union membership and dues-paying may be voluntary.  At DSU the American Association of University Professors is our union, but membership is not mandatory--we have to earn it (currently we have about an 85% buy-in).  We still represent unit members who do not pay dues if they get into trouble, but again they don't get to vote on officers or have input into contract negotiations or vote on the new contract without joining.  Still, there is absolutely no stigma attached to not joining, and I'm pretty proud of the fact that over my six years there as president we raised the membership percentage from 65% to the aforementioned 85% and held it there.

Point being:  one of the reasons that people read the newspaper is supposed to be for accuracy involved in the reporting.

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