How would you feel about an ignoble truce between the duty of a man and the terror of a coward?

Something Dave wrote down at the OG makes me think that maybe there's room for a more serious attempt at compromise on efca. As Dave has argued elsewhere, the nub of truth in the anti-efca narrative is that there are unions that operate with little or no regard for the wishes of rank and file membership. Follow the link to his post for a vivid example.

So here are two problems. On the one hand, it is too difficult for workers who desire to bargain collectively to organize themselves into recognized unions. On the other hand, it is too easy for unions to adopt governance practices which leave very little room for rank and file participation in decision making.

There is a well justified tendency in the progressive parts of the labor movement to think about this question introspectively. We focus on our own locals or, if we are thinking about labor more broadly, on reform movements within labor and the institutions -- Labor Notes comes to mind -- which support them.

But are there structural reforms that would encourage democratic union governance, and would it be possible to bring about those reforms through legislation? This is a really difficult question because when you're talking about a democratic union, what you're really doing is talking about a set of interrelated institutions that operate at different levels of scale, and which have different kinds of decision making structures. One approach would be to encourage democratic governance by pushing power closer to the rank and file membership. A series of reforms aimed at this goal might include limiting the size of locals, forcing unions to keep most dues at the local level, and strengthening the financial reporting requirements on locals.

I'm all for local control, so it sounds good to me. The bug in the batter, though, is that it's politically impossible for the straightforward reason that the national federations aren't going to trade away their power for card check. I'm sure they'd tell you that it would be imprudent.

Got any better ideas?

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