Mark Mix did his fiduciary duty to say what the National Right to Work Committee expected him to say. John McClaughry, Mr. Roper, the heads of the Chamber of Commerce, Scientology, any diocese, Right to Life, Right to Choose, you name it, all say what their boards expect them to say. Debate is out the window.

I was a member of the National Forensic League 1957-61. I still have the charter signed by Karl Mundt. Our debate teams argued a proposition sponsored by the National Right to Work Committee: Membership in a labor union as a condition of employment should be prohibited. One of the best debaters was the son of a printer and was in St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn on a scholarship from the Printers Union. Terry could argue pro in the morning and win, and negative in the afternoon and win. Debates and logic depend on impressing the judge with quotes from imposing think-tanks.

Forced unionism is a buzz word. It implies some cigar-smoking union leader like Walter Reuther or George Meaney comes in and blackmails a company into having collective bargaining. OK. OK. I know he really means that, after a union is recognized as the collective bargaining agent, the union tries to get dues imposed on everyone as part of the contract. Perhaps that is an “imposition” if someone did not vote for the union. But on the other side, the union has a fiduciary responsibility to represent everyone, whether they pay dues or not. I was always appalled by people who said they did not want to see the union out, but they did not want to pay dues. Usually their husbands or pastors did not want them being members (that is, paying dues). It’s like not tipping the wait staff because it is against your faith.

Unions get in on a vote of the majority. Once they are in, they have to, by law, represent everyone in the bargaining unit. The union makes contracts which must have the approval of the membership. They are legal documents defended in court. That means lawyers. Dues pay for the lawyers and staff to support them. Not some fat-assed “boss.” Expenditures are monitored closely under the Labor Relations Act. That started with the Wagner Act in the 1930s, was amended by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1948, then by Landrum-Griffen of the 1960s and probably later amendments. It’s all under a Title of The United States Code. You could look it up.

If a union gets in by a slim majority, it is always vulnerable to a vote against it by a slim majority. In by 60 %, it is harder to get it out. But the people in the bargaining unit can always vote it out.

Think of it as a legal insurance policy. Like any insurance, you may never need it. But when you do, you have spread the risk and don’t have an oppressive bill to pay. And besides, what is decided in one person’s case is precedent for all people.

When I came to Vermont in 1971 to work for the Department of Social Services (Welfare), VSEA had reorganized. Story was that Garnet Harvey was the head and summoned the social workers to Montpelier. The workers had agitated for changes. Garnet sat on the dais with some legislators and department heads and said, “We know what is good for you and will give you what we think you need. Now stop rocking the boat.” Or words to that effect. And he wagged his finger at them.

Imagine. Telling college-educated people coming out of the Vietnam era to “stay in your lane.” He was out within a year. Talk about “bosses.”

Thomas Francis Clougher lives in Montpelier.

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