History of Attack on Fair Share
By Earl Silbar
Corporate America continues its decades-long attack on unions, workers' pay, working conditions, benefits, pensions, public education and more. Here in Illinois, Gov. Rauner has taken this to a new level, unilaterally stopping state collection of 'fair share' deductions. 'Fair share" is the money taken from workers' pay to cover each worker's 'fair share' of unions' cost in representing all workers covered by and benefiting from the union contract. Ending 'fair share' collections is usually justified as defending individual freedom with "right to work" as the packaging. The so-called "right to work" is really a "right to freeload" and a way to weaken all workers.
This attack on 'fair share,' along with Rauner's proposal to set up "right to work" areas in Illinois and his proposal to end 'prevailing wage' mandates for construction work on government projects are all clearly intended to weaken both public and private sector unions. Weaker unions means greater 'freedom' for corporate management to impose yet greater hardships on the union workforce. And when union conditions go down, non-union workers are next in line.
These attacks will be fought. But will we go beyond the ineffective. losing strategies most union leaders embrace? We can avoid the union-managed, disastrous defeat we suffered in the 2011 Wisconsin uprising if we look to some lessons from that bitter experience. The first step is to ensure that this fightback goes beyond the carefully staged, safe demonstrations, running lesser-evil (Democratic Party) candidates, and law suits - the losing tactics of the Wisconsin and national AFL-CIOs. These tactics undermined and then overwhelmed the growing grass-roots support for statewide demonstrations towards a statewide strike against the attacks on our unions and to restore the massive cuts in education and healthcare. Cuts which the top union leaders accepted in an attempt to be 'reasonable' and save their dues deductions.
Is there a silver lining in these storm clouds here in Illinois? Possibly. Ending collection of 'fair share' dues means unions must persuade those workers (and current dues-paying members) to join and voluntarily pay full dues. In nearby Wisconsin, the attack on public sector unions in 2011 meant ending state collection of all dues, as seems likely for Illinois next. This article below shines a light on what led corporate managers to begin collecting union dues in the first place. And suggests that losing employer-based dues collection can open the door to grass-roots worker militancy.