Fairness is what democracy is all about
To the Editor,
In a time of increasing inequality, when workers have a decreasing say in our economy, the US Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is about to undo Vermont law and destroy our unions.
Either we hang together or surely we will hang separately was Benjamin Franklin’s observation in our battle against George III; without solidarity, our American Revolution would have failed. Likewise, the only defense workers have against the power of corporations is to act together. The child in the coal mine, the garment worker in the sweat shop and the laborer on the factory floor learned that standing alone was futile; only through unity are employee rights secured. Now, however, the soul of labor, collective bargaining, earned in struggle and blood, faces extinction.
On April 25, 2013, I reported S.14, the agency fee bill, on the floor of the Vermont House. What subsequently became Act.37 simply states that any nonunion member of a public bargaining unit will pay a share of the cost for services rendered by the union on behalf of all workers, dues-paying member or not. An elected union is mandated by law to expend resources to represent all employees, regardless of affiliation, in collective bargaining, grievance procedures and other work related matters.
No one is entitled to a free ride; the cost for such representation should be borne by all. Everyone is simply asked to pay a fair share for services delivered. Opponents argue, incorrectly, that in violation of the First Amendment, workers are being forced to join a union.
In our democratic form of governance, although we express various social and political opinions, we work together in accepting actions by our elected officials. And, assuming that each of us is equally represented, we contribute a fair share of financial support for our common good.
Otherwise, without the unity that Franklin spoke of, we will have anarchy, which is what will happen when the court in the Janus ruling overthrows agency fee legislation. Vermont’s Act.37 will be discarded, labor will be further splintered, workers will lose their seat at the table with management, economic inequality will escalate and our democracy will suffer.
Back in 2013, when I asked a conservative colleague and close friend about the pending agency fee bill, he surprised me by saying he was going to vote for it. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s fair,” he responded. Fairness is what democracy is about.