What do George McGovern and Mickey Kaus have in common? For one thing, neither of them supports the “card check” unionizing idea that would do away with secret ballot elections in organizing campaigns.
McGovern does forthrightly raise some issues that in my view card-check supporters haven’t really grappled with, and I’m a secret ballot guy myself. But, even assuming card-check were to pass and then did actually lead to an increase in union membership (something even many in the labor movement privately say is debatable), would that be such a bad thing for education reform?
I think not! That’s because the “hard hat” unions and especially the SEIU under Andy Stern’s leadership have proven to have a pretty healthy appetite for school reform. It’s their kids not the children of non-unionized knowledge workers who are stuck in lousy schools. That dynamic has played out behind the scenes in some cities and Stern has been pretty vocal on school reform. Problem is, the hard hat guys are a shrinking minority in the labor movement, something that in my view is problematic for a whole host of reasons. But for education policy specifically, a union movement dominated by public sector unions is part of the problem, not unionization per se.
So, I don’t see how outside the margins card check strengthens the teachers’ unions much at all relative to today’s education debates but I do see how rehabilitating private sector unions could help change education politics. So I don’t think it’ll be a blow to democracy if card check fails, but perhaps it will be good for ed policy if it succeeds! So buck up Mickey, for you card check is a win-win!