The Dirty Blackleg Miner, or education is only for unionists

Oh Deleval is a terrible place
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face
And around the heaps they run a footrace
To catch the blackleg miner.

As soon as any discussion about ending compulsory student unionism is raised, The Sydney Morning Herald trots out some student unionist to cry foul. This is how they headline their latest piece:

The campuses have already spoken

Students are determined to fight off a fresh assault on compulsory unionism, writes Sarah-Jane Collins

It's the usual student crap that I used to toss about when I was 19:
We may not see the advocates who push for change to university policy so that they are fairer and better for all students.
Fairer and better for all students? Is there any point fisking this?

Oh don't go near the Seghill mine
Across the mainway they stretch a line
To catch the throat and break the spine
Of the dirty blackleg miner.

Sarah continues:

And, unless we are in trouble with our studies, living arrangements or finances, we do not need the free legal advice, counselling and advocacy that student associations provide. Without crystal balls, how can we be sure that we will not need such services?
None of this has anything to do with compulsory student unionism. No-one's demanding that student unions be banned. You're free to sign up to a union if you want to take advantage of the legal advice that is paid for out of union funds.

Couldn't be that what's behind little Sarah-Jane's claim is the worry that unless student unionism is made compulsory, few students will join, and her and her little mates will lose their access to cash, and thus their power, could it?

In actual fact, though, if student unions are as good a deal as she makes out, then lots of students will join. And some student unions are a good deal - although some have suffered because the Universities involved have already stripped off the best bits into a separate body, sometimes called a Student Guild (thus avoiding the whole compulsory union debate), leaving the Student Union with all the crap that no-one wants.

It could be that little Sarah's argument is that some students may not realize that they need free legal advice until it's too late to get it, and so they need to be forced to part with their money beforehand for their own good. But such an argument doesn't hold up. Only the government (unfortunately) has the power to make you join "the union" - ie. pay taxes - against your will. We can't go around giving out similar powers to other bodies just because they claim to be doing what's in your interest.

They'll take your tools and your duds as well
And throw them down in the pit of hell
It's down you go and fare you well
You dirty blackleg miner.

And consider this argument:

The fight over voluntary unionism will be couched in terms of choice versus compulsion. But what the Government will not mention is that students have already made their choice. In 1999 students came out in support of universal membership in large and determined numbers. In 1994, when the Western Australian Liberal government introduced voluntary unionism, students spent almost 10 years campaigning to have it reversed. The Gallop Government finally changed the legislation in 2003.
Students have made their choice? Dodgy student logic, I'm afraid. Some students have noisily demanded that others be forced to pay. How are those who don't want to pay represented by those who want them to? Even if the majority of students want compulsory unionism, that doesn't give them the right to force the others to pay. So it is a matter of choice versus compulsion.

Of course, the NUS might say that it's a matter of democracy - if the majority of students want compulsory unionism, then that is what should happen. But a University is not a sovereign nation. It is not a country within a country. Despite what the budding Castros of student politics would like to be the case, they aren't the head of a mini-state, and it's simply irrelevant what the majority thinks on this issue. (Democracy and majority rule are foreign concepts for left-wing student politicians anyway. They're always happy to push through unpopular policies on the basis of nothing more than self-righteousness).

So join the union while you may,
Don't wait till your dying day,
For that may not be far away,
You dirty blackleg miner.

Cross-posted at Blithering Bunny.