Opt out of union?

6/26/2013: From an op-ed in the Oregonian by libertarian Steve Buckstein of the Cascade Policy Institute:

“If it were possible to opt out of membership in a labor union without losing your job or any other penalty, would you do it?” 

Nationally, 33.4 percent of respondents answered yes.
In Oregon, 31.2 percent of respondents answered yes.

Asked only of union members. Given how loaded this question is, I’m surprised at how much support it shows for unions, among union members. Cascade is pushing for a ballot initiative to repeal Oregon’s closed shop laws, which require non-members to pay “fair-share” dues, which spread union costs over all employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, even the non-members.

Buckstein argues that fair-share is unfair coercion. The economic argument in favor is that unions provides club goods for those in the bargaining unit. Just as with taxes used to provide local public goods such as schools, roads, and police, coercive taxation is necessary to raise the money to provide the efficient level of such goods. 

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22 Responses to Opt out of union?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unions rarely inspire the best and always protect the worst.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have any evidence of this claim that I see so often repeated? Or, is it just clever sounding BS. If there is evidence, show it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Evidence???…. Two big ones –Obama, Obamacare

  2. Anonymous says:

    One difference is that police, etc. are government functions, while a union is not. So it’s not “taxation.”

    • Daffy Duck says:

      The original op-ed piece confuses, perhaps deliberately, a closed shop with an agency shop. The former, where union membership is required for employment was made illegal by the Taft-Hartley Act during the Truman administration. An ‘agency shop’ requires an ‘agency fee’ from all members of the bargaining unit. The lack of consensus on union representation for faculty on campus arises in my opinion, largely from the fact that there has never been a simple up or down vote on representation for a clearly defined bargaining unit. The piecemeal strategy by AFT and AAUP was clever in exploiting the weaknesses of multi-stage balloting, weaknesses someone got a Nobel Prize for identifying and proving in mathematical terms.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Daffy, UA worked on campus for about 2 years talking to employees on campus about whether they wanted a union and if so, what it should look like. Early on, there was some thought to have the OAs included, but neither the faculty nor the OAs thought this was a good idea. There was lots of talk about whether NTTF and TTF should be in the same unit. If I recall correctly, the proprietor of this blog frequently argued that NTTF and TTF should be separate.

    When the leadership of UA (volunteer faculty) thought that a majority of the faculty wanted a union, they began the process of collecting cards. You could vote “yes” for the union by signing one. You could vote “no” by not signing one. (You could also vote “no” by never having the opportunity to sing a card, deliberately or accidentally). Under state law they had 90 days to collect cards and submit them to the Employment Relations Board. They did that. They said to the ERB that they had a majority of the faculty signed up (they said publically they had a majority of the TT, the NTTF instructors, and the researchers. I have no reason to doubt them), if the the bargaining unit was defined to exclude the law faculty and faculty that supervise other employees in the bargaining unit (i.e., PIs, department heads, and administrators). The law says that employees who supervise other employees cannot be in the same union as their supervisees.

    The UO objected to UA’s definition of the bargaining unit. The UO said that the only people who should be in the bargaining unit were instructional faculty who do not supervise GTFs. Then the UO changed its mind. I don’t know why. You’d have to ask Geller. The UO agreed to voluntarily recognize that the union had collected yes votes from more than 50% of the faculty, as long as the ERB actually certified that the union had, indeed, collected those votes. The UO then submitted a list of everyone they thought was a faculty member, barring those that supervised other bargaining unit members and the law faculty. The union had 50%+.

    Whether or not any individual faculty member was in or out of the unit was largely a result of the UO excluding them on that first list. There was some back and forth between union lawyers and university lawyers, but the UO is driving that discussion. I understand there are published lists somewhere. I have no idea why some are on it and others are not. Again, you’d have to ask Geller.

    So I am sure that there were many discussions at the union level about the best bargaining and the best chance to collect enough yes votes in 90 days. In the end, they decided to go for the biggest bargaining unit possible, save the law faculty. I have no idea if including the law faculty would have resulted in a ‘no’ vote. But the other exclusions from the bargaining unit were based on the law about supervisors, not Nobel-laureate level math.

    Finally, under Oregon law, if a union uses the “card-check” voting method, they need to collect yes votes from 50%+ of the entire unit. In (what I imagine) you mean by a “simple up or down vote” the union would only need to get 50% of those voting in what is usually a one or two day affair. While both methods have risks to the union, it is almost certain that the card-check method assures a higher participation level than ballot box voting would.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog to ANON above

      Yes this is all fine and reasonable. On a personal note, I was excluded
      from the Union in the first list but currently don’t know my status (and
      don’t care).

      But, lets’ focus on what has happened since the YES vote on the Union:

      Speaking from my perspective as a TTF (clerical error by the way):

      –Do we have a CBA?
      –Do we have a raise structure for our future?
      –Has faculty morale increased since the Yes vote?
      –Has my UO daily experience been changed since the Yes vote?

      Obviously the answer to those questions is NO – meaning that this union has
      had zero impact yet … The question then becomes, when will it have an
      impact? (its now about 450 days since the YES vote)

    • Anonymous says:

      These types of negotiations often take more than a year. To measure from the date of the yes vote isn’t really a fair measure. The many faculty who worked the entire summer last year to canvas faculty on the many issues on this campus needed that time to make sure the eventual CBA reflected real faculty needs. Then, the administration stalled on commencing bargaining so actual negotiations have only been going on for about 9 months. Given that, remarkable progress has been made on many very important issues. The bargaining team will devote another summer to bargaining sessions to ensure we can get this done as soon as possible.

      One could make an argument that faculty morale still stinks because our new President has failed to engage faculty in meaningful ways.

      You will most definitely have a raise structure when this is over and some of that will be retroactive.

      There are many non-economic issues the CBA will clarify and for which administration will be held accountable in ways they never have. Some of those changes will be every noticeable and some will be more subtle but very real.

      The scores of NTTF on this campus who have been treated like second class citizens for years are going to see their roles and status professionalized on this campus in recognition of the vital role they play in educating our students. If that doesn’t matter to you, well, that is unfortunate but I believe that makes this a better institution for everyone.

      The administration is at a table discussing with faculty how to competitively compensate faculty and by how much. When has administration ever sat down with faculty and done that and then followed through? If you think they would have if they didn’t have to, I’d like to know how you arrive at that conclusion.

      So, zero impact? Just not true. Will the total impact be worth it in the long run? Neither of us know that and to claim other wise would be disingenuous.

      I wonder if you have taken the time to read the various proposals to see how you might be impacted, or attended any bargaining sessions or sat down and talked with any bargaining team members or organizers. Or maybe it is just easier to snipe from a distance about how none of this is benefitting you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sniping Dog @ Distance:

      Okay I copy and paste:

      Will the total impact be worth it in the long run?

      Is really the only question that matters to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fair enough. What impact would you hope for? What results from union efforts would make it worth it to you? Im honestly interested.

    • Anonymous says:


      This is answered in the context of “that makes this a better institution for everyone”

      1) Improved Instructor to Student ratio
      2) Improved Teaching Facilities/Classrooms
      3) Much improved research facilities
      4) Much better flexibility in the credit hour portfolio for undergrads – less seat time – more experiential or research based learning
      5) More equitable ability for faculty to obtain some summer salary funding.
      6) Improved general education
      7) More interdisciplinary undergrad degree programs
      8) More advanced degree programs to attract more graduate students, the number one issue at the UO in my opinion.
      9) More regular and fair salary increases.
      10) Better oversight of faculty time
      11) Improved balance of athletic vs academic facility funding
      12) A real peer evaluation of teaching instead of the current system where
      everyone is brilliant
      13) A better vision of scholarship in the digital age and how faculty
      can be evaluated and a more fair and equitable manner.

      13 is enough

    • Anonymous says:

      Good list – thanks.

  4. Anonymous says:

    random thoughts on this:

    1) The union card check thugs hassled and lied to several people in my building to get them to sign the cards.

    2) The list of people not covered by the CBA has changed since the original list and some people that may have signed cards may not be covered by the CBA any more.

    3) The ratification vote shows how much people care about this on campus. 174 yes votes to a handful of no votes. Where are the votes of the other 1000+ people ensnared by this union boondoggle?

    4) Time to embrace mediocrity…

  5. Anonymous says:

    First, these are not random thoughts.

    1) “Thugs”? Really?

    2) the list will always change as people will move in and out of “management”. There is nothing nefarious about that. It’s just the nature of our bargaining unit

    3) yes, it is a shame that more people aren’t willing to step up to make our university better by actively participating. But that was true before the union. And, it’s easier to sit back and make snarky comments on a blog than work to make things better. It should be noted that more than half of the bargaining unit has become members of the union – that’s a significant number.

    “Boondoggle”? That is a common view of the uninformed.

    4. This is a function of point 3, not of having a union.

    I’ll ask you what I asked Dog – have you taken any steps to try and understand what has been happening in bargaining? Read the proposals carefully? Attended a session? Talked to an active union member? Or have you already decided the union is bad and can only produce bad results? If that’s your view, fine. But it’s disingenuous to not participate in your union and at the same time call the union ineffectual.

    • Cat says:

      Ugh. Spare me. I have read all the proposal, I have attended bargaining sessions, and I have come around a great deal on the issue of unionization. I’ve signed my card–though I fought it initially.

      But please, spare Dog and all the rest of us the sanctimony. It’s one thing to ask straight questions like “What impact do you expect?” It’s another thing to poo-poo other criticisms with the same old “If you really cared about the faculty and this university, you’d be helping the union make it better.”

      I believe the union organizers and negotiators are sincerely working to make UO a better place–and I thank them heartily for all the work they’ve done. But the jury is still out on whether they’ll succeed and whether unionization will be quite the force for positive change than the pie-in-the-sky idealists hope. And it is perfectly legitimate to raise that. And entirely inappropriate to simply assume anyone asking such question is ignorant and disengaged.

    • Anonymous says:

      The “ugh spare me” feeling is a two way street. What’s the opposite of pie-in-the-sky idealism? Down in the dirt pessimism? Why is that any more legitimate or noble. I’m merely responding to the same old “road to mediocrity” line that is no more grounded in the facts. If you’ve been showing up and participating – great but I don’t see why it’s sanctimonious to ask if criticisms are coming from a place of experience and knowledge of what’s going on or just blind disagreement.

    • Anonymous says:

      One more thing – I don’t believe I suggested it was inappropriate to question things. I was attempting to respond to those making broad, unsubstantiated claims.

    • Cat says:

      And respond you did: with sanctimony (IMO). I myself made no reference to nobility. Do we really need to work only with opposites: pie-in-the-sky versus down-in-the-dirt. The reality is in the middle.

      To many, the middle means mediocrity–and that’s pretty much where we are now, and that’s probably pretty much where we’ll be when the CBA is finally signed. It might be a better level of mediocrity–I certainly hope so. It might be decidedly less mediocre from some of us (NTTF for instance) and even more mediocre for others (though I can’t think who). It might be less mediocre in some areas, and worse in others (witness the items on Dog’s list the union is directly addressing, and those that lie outside its bargaining purview).

      But quite honestly, it may yet turn out to be something that could fairly be described as a “Boondoggle” My point was to object to your blithely labelling such a view “uninformed.” The word “boondoggle” as originally offered may miscast the intentions of many involved (as “thugs” does), but it may prove to be an accurate description of the results of unionization.

      I believe I am very well informed, but I also think the jury is still out. Nothing in your preachy post acknowledges that, even if the original poster put it more snarkily than you might like. It will take several years–to finish the negotiations and live under the new regime a while–for any of us to really know what benefits and disadvantages unionization has wrought. Then we may–or may not–find that more than half our faculty prefer to decertify.

    • Anonymous says:

      Boondoggle could be that some people are kept out of the union regardless of their disposition on the matter while some are included in the union merely to boost the numbers (many of them have no idea the union exists and could care less because they are or were truly part time employees!). Note: I know this for a fact based on correspondence from the union to a family member.

      I received notice of four separate complaints about the union card check person coming into offices and provided information that was just plain false. The repeated nagging, hassling and assertions that if these people did not sign the cards they were going to destroy UO….tantamount to verbal thuggery. BTW, what is the union stance on bullying?

  6. Anonymous says:

    So now you, without any sanctimony

  7. Awesome0 says:

    The real question is, without anyone knowing (many social costs).

  8. Anonymous says:

    All up to, including and after “union thug” (or similar ungrounded pejorative) is wisely ignored.

    Note, I tried to comment under my username and my url but it didn’t allow.

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