OK, this has been bouncing around my brain for a while. In an open thread a week or so ago, I made a passing reference to the fact that unions are more grassroots than large corporations or one rich guy. The background is that 3 initiatives qualified for the ballot: one a Tim Eyman initiative largely funded by Kemper Freeman, one a let Costco sell booze initiative funded by Costco and one a home healthcare initiative funded by SEIU.
It paints a nice picture if you’re a reporter or a journalist. Tut tut, all sides do it. But I’m sorry to let the people using that sort of construction know, no they aren’t the same. The editorial makes a special case that one person funding an initiative is particularly bad. Fair enough, I guess. Still, corporations, especially large ones like Costco, are nearly as unaccountable. But one of these things is not like the other. Unions are accountable to their membership.
SEIU (and all unions) have to be accountable to their membership. That’s a more engaged group than disinterested shareholders or boards of directors who are often buddy buddy with the CEO. If SEIU’s initiative fails, they’ll rightly be held to account by members who paid dues and elected union officers. When Costco’s last liquor initiative failed, there was no fallout. They just put another one on the ballot.
And membership does hold its officers to account. Those of us in or with family or friends in unions know plenty of people who take active part in union activity. My aunt was a teacher in another state and she and some of the other teachers in her district ousted the old guard who were, “on the take.” This sort of thing happens regularly in unions, but hardly ever in the corporate world.
To get back to this initiative season, SEIU’s home health care initiative is not only something that benefits the union and its membership, but is also of benefit to anyone who needs to hire a home healthcare worker in Washington. We’ll know that our loved ones and ourselves are in good hands. Even if you think Costco’s initiative is beneficial, they only put it on the ballot to make money. So, no, when a union gets something on the ballot that benefits its members and the state, it’s not the same as when a corporation buys itself a law.