Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The case for a conscience exemption: Addendum

If this blog has any regular readers, they will know that I have devoted the last three posts to arguing for a general "conscience exemption" to fair-share dues payment.  If you wish to read those posts, you can find them here, here, and here.

In this "addendum" to those posts, I wish to address a possible objection my readers might have.   I have in this blog gone on record as believing the UICUF and its contract are on balance more harmful than good.  And if the issue of re-certification ever comes up, I'm not now certain I would vote to re-certify.  And yet, one of my arguments for expanding the exemption is that doing so could help the union more than hurt it.  Am I not being a bit of a hypocrite or what on the blogosphere is called a "concern troll"?  (A "concern troll" is someone in blog forums who raises a concern--in this case, perhaps the survival of the union--only for purposes of contravening that concern.)

First, I'll point out that that objection is not logically relevant to my argument.  Expanding the exemption can be beneficial to the union.  Or not.  But any ulterior motivations I have do not affect that question.

Second, I don't see what I am doing as "concern trolling."  As I've also argued in these posts, I believe expanding the exemption to be the right thing to do and if I am to be represented by a union, I'd prefer it be by a union that tries to do the right thing.  Also, I realize those who support the union have fought long and hard for it.  They want it to work.  On this issue by itself and notwithstanding my all-too-human failing of wanting to be proved right in my predictions even if that means something bad will happen, I see us as sharing common ground.  We can co-exist in an atmosphere of mutual respect and not one of acrimony.

Elsewhere on this blog, I have mentioned that most members of the union with whom I have raised my concerns have treated those concerns and the concerns of other faculty members with respect.  At least one supporter has gone out of his way to listen to me and although he or she does not necessarily agree with most of what I say, he or she relayed , my concerns on to others in the union and for all I know, those concerns may have informed some of the union's decisions.  And while I owe my own decision to keep my membership card to my sense that I ought to pay for the upkeep of the organization from which I benefit, I could resign the membership in protest and with a clear conscience because I'd be paying anyway through fair-share requirements.  (As an aside, I'll note that under the conscience exemption plan, one can resign one's membership and yet not elect the exemption.).  And one reason I haven't resigned is in part because the unions' supporters have been so willing to engage.

Finally, does the union want to create active opponents?  I can understand why the union would not want to go out of its way to appease the likely very small number of dissenters and thereby compromise the support it enjoys from the overwhelming majority of its bargaining unit.  But the union might want to consider how many of those who support it support enthusiastically and how many support it only reluctantly.  And it might also want to consider whether, among those who don't support it, it wants to alienate them and encourage them to take stances actively opposed to it.  It's one thing to have dissenters.  It's another to have opponents who might, for example, speak to local media as the voice of internal opposition.  In my opinion, expanding the conscience exemption will prevent alienating dissenters in that way.

If the union expands the exemption, that would be a sign to me of its continued willingness to engage its opposition, an opposition that in my case and so far, is a contingent, "loyal opposition."  I won't guarantee that expanding the exemption will seal my support for the union during the next round of negotiations.  And it may not win new supporters.  But it may make me, and other dissenters, less ill-disposed toward the union.

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