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The beginning of the second decade of the 21st century saw renewed attacks on public employee collective bargaining, which included claims that allowing public employees to organize and bargain collectively distorts democratic processes. These renewed attacks included the traditional claim that public employee collective bargaining inappropriately gives one interest group, workers and their unions, an avenue of access to public decision-makers that is not available to other interest groups. The attack also raised a new claim of distortion of democratic processes: that unions are inappropriately advantaged in the broader political process through agency shop or fair share and dues check-off provisions of their collective bargaining agreements.

This article addresses both prongs of the claim that public employee collective bargaining distorts democracy. It argues that the recent response to the claim that unions gain an avenue of exclusive access to public decision-makers has been to increase employer unilateral control over terms and conditions of employment, a response that is at best counterproductive. It urges creative experimentation that breaks away from the private sector dichotomy that mandates traditional collective bargaining or leaves a matter to unilateral employer control to develop alternative forms for worker voice.

The article then refutes the claim that agency shop or fair share fees and dues check-off inappropriately advantage unions in the public political process. It shows how arguments against agency shop and fair share fees misrepresent the law. It further shows that rather than privilege unions to use non-members’ money on ideological activity to which the non-members object, agency shop and fair share fees protect the union from having to divert resources that it might otherwise spend on ideological activity to subsidize services for non-members who are legally entitled to fair representation by the union. The article debunks the claim that dues check-off is coercive, establishing that it is voluntary, and demonstrates that the attacks on dues check-off are motivated by the attackers’ dislike for the positions taken by unions and not by any principled basis.