Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A union isn't uniform 

I was reading a twitter stream from a local blogger saying that the SEIU is janitors, clerical workers, etc., basically, they're common normal people and that people who complain about the purple shirts are somehow besmirching all those good people. What to make of this?

I work in a state university; all but our top administrators are unionized by the IFO (faculty union), AFSCME, MAPE and I'm sure I'm forgetting someone (sorry). All of them have memberships that are around 70-80% of the possible members. The rest get covered as "fair share" employees, meaning they still have to pay for someone to represent them in contract negotiations even though they would rather not be. (Long-time Scholars readers will know these arguments.) So it's fair to say that when you blame my union, of which I'm a full member, for giving a large chunk of money to the party that wants to take my health care freedom away, you are smearing some 20% or more of our faculty who don't give money to the union for that purpose. (We hope.)

But it's more than this. The SEIU and other unions might not be representing their rank and file very well.
Union members give Obama wide berth on handling health care reform - they trust him over Republicans in Congress 63 percent versus 11 percent according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in late June - but there remains room for Republicans to gain among card-carrying union members. A sizable 17 percent said they trust neither to make the right decisions on health care and Obama's approval rating on the issue lags well behind his overall rating (54 percent compared with 67 percent).

The same poll found many union members wary that health care reform could bring unwelcome change. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said reform would require change even of those who don't want it. And majorities are deeply concerned that health care reform will reduce their coverage and sharply increase the federal deficit (59 percent), increase their health care costs (53 percent), increase government bureaucracy in the health care system (52 percent), reduce the quality of health care they receive and limit their choices of doctors or treatments (51 percent).

That poll is late June, before the details of this power grab have been made known. It's plausible to me that support has since fallen even among union workers. If it's true that not every SEIU supports the thuggery of some of its members -- and I am certain that is true -- then it must also be true that the SEIU is not representing many of its members when it shills for Obamacare. I hope some of them start wearing shirts that read "I am Ken Gladney."

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