Friday, July 18, 2008

I've paid my dues, time after time...

Ok, I actually haven't (and I'd like to keep it that way). Mowing the miserable weeds on our extra lot today, I started pondering the labor laws in Colorado. I'm pretty lucky to have an artificially secure job because, as part of a nationally unionized labor force, it's harder to get rid of me than athlete's foot in a dorm shower stall. I'm even luckier to live in a state that is, for the moment at least, more on the "right to work" than the "union shop" end of the spectrum. In other words, I'm allowed to have a job in a workplace that is mostly unionized and not have to pay union dues in order to work there. This is important to me because the union that would represent me is pretty active politically, and the politicians it supports are "pertinear" 100% pro-abortion.

In 2007, this very nearly changed: Governor Ritter (who, along with our neighboring state's governor, Kathleen Sebelius, and our illustrious Senator Salazar are among the mythical Catholic Democrats who "personally oppose abortion, but won't legislate morality") shocked all involved by vetoing a bill pushed through by the newly-minted majority Democrat state legislature that would have made it easier to require people like me to join unions. From the sound of things, he has no problem with the idea; he just didn't want to spit in the eye of the business community so early in his first term:

Anyway, I got to wondering today what my options were, short of walking away from my job (which I am totally prepared to do, before I'd help pay for the campaign of, say, Barack Obama - the presidential candidate my union has endorsed). I've never once regretted not finishing law school, but at times like this I miss having access to such resources as WestLaw. With the resources at hand, though, I was able to figure out that Communications Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988) gave workers in a "union shop" the right to only pay an "agency fee" - the portion of dues not devoted to political activities. However, the unions seem to have sidestepped this pretty easily by setting up PACs to deal with all direct political contributions, isolated from dues-money. I have no doubt that I'd still be paying for generic political activities, but the "agency fee" is apparently the full cost of the dues because, as the union president explains online to another employee who shares my concerns, the dues themselves are not used for donations to specific candidates.

So... my best hope at this point seems to be rooting for the passage of Amendment 47 on this November's ballot, which would enshrine "right to work" language in Colorado's constitution, trumping the kind of legislation I'm sure is on its way back through the legislature in the near future. Or, I could look for new work, or I could just get over it and pay my dues... I don't know, do you think I'm overreacting? What would you do in my place? Please post your comments!
* and sorry for the long, boring post ;-) *

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