By Chris Maisano
Cross-posted from Jacobin
Originally posted on January 19, 2015
Michigan timber workers reading the bulletin board at strike headquarters in 1937.
Ted Fertik is terrified by the possibility that US unions may soon lose the agency shop. I don’t blame him — it’s a pretty scary prospect. Most unions today are not well positioned to mitigate the potential impact on their organizational and financial wherewithal.
If the recent experience of AFSCME in Wisconsin is any guide, they should expect to see a substantial portion of their membership base evaporate more or less overnight. Income from dues and fees would be drastically reduced, and unions would struggle to fund many of their current day-to-day activities. I certainly don’t relish the thought that this could happen sometime in the very near future.
Despite these completely valid fears, one should not make the claim, as Fertik does, that “the possibility of the demise of the Wagner Act might mean the demise of worker organization tout court.” To begin with, the end of agency shop would not spell the death of the Wagner Act, which would still allow workers (union and non-union alike) to engage in protected concerted activity, as well as the recognition of members-only unions.