The current crisis in Wisconsin brings to mind the results of a 1988 Supreme Court decision in the matter of Communication Workers of America v. Beck. “Beck” started when a CWA worker named Harry Beck demanded his dues money back because the CWA was using it to fund the campaigns of liberal Democrats and as a conservative Beck had had enough.
After the usual protracted period of appeals the case worked its way up to the Supreme Court and was decided in favor of Beck and his co-defendants.
What “Beck” Said and Why It’s Important Today
The decision established what are now known as “Beck rights” for all American workers. Essentially it said a union worker who objects to having his/her dues used for purposes he/she disapproves of can no longer be forced to pay that part of any dues not specifically designated for actual union related purposes. Only the dues fees actually necessary to provide bargaining services and administer benefits can be collected by unions. In short, unions can no longer collect union dues for anti American causes without the expressed permission of the member.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as the decision was handed down the media, Democrats and feckless collaborating Republicans conspired to make believe it never happened. Even under both Bush 41 and 43, “Beck” became nothing more than a grease stained sign at most work places if one appeared at all.
By February 1995, Clinton quietly rescinded a Bush-41 Executive Order requiring all federal contractors to post a “Beck Notice.” Since then most of the time Beck enforcement has had more to do with minor fines handed out for not displaying a Beck Rights than (gasp!) actually enforcing the decision.
The Time is Right
Obviously when the Republicans regained control of the House in 1994 they had no stomach for fighting to see that Beck was enforced. That was then, however, and this is now. We have beaten back Card Check and we have the unions on the run. Now is the time to cripple them with a “reverse” Card Check allowing individuals to opt out of union membership altogether. Doing this and pressing the enforcement of workers’ Beck Rights can break the strangle hold of Big Labor on our economy. For the sake of our nation let’s hope Wisconsin’s Republicans do just this.
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