Democratic Underground

The Most Local Democratic Process of All
August 6, 2001
by Ken Alford

There is a lot of debate these days about what is the best type of government. The consensus seems to be that state governments are better than Federal government and that local governments are better than state governments. City Councils know how to better run their cities than bureaucrats at the state level, and so forth.

After all, city council members are elected by a democratic majority. The same could be said about local school board members. By majority vote, they make decisions for the community or district they represent. By access to democratic rule, the minority adheres to the wishes of the majority. If the majority says we need to raise taxes to pay for paving the streets, the minority cannot defer from paying taxes simply because they did not agree with the majority.

It could be argued that the most local democratic process of all - even more local than city councils and school boards - are the local unions. They have elections no different from those for President, Governor, or City Council Member. The majority agree to a contract and the minority cannot defer from the decisions simply because they do not agree. That would run counter to democratic rule. The minority can opt out paying their dues simply because they do not "believe" in unions.

The "right-to-work" laws are in opposition to our democratic principles of majority rule. It would be no different in substance than saying we will not pay taxes next year because we do not agree with the person that was chosen by the majority to be President of this nation. Or we will not pay 10 cents more in state taxes for gasoline because we do not agree with the Governor. Or we will not pay property taxes for school bond because we disagreed with how the majority voted.

It is wrong to argue that the democratic process stops with city councils at the local level and cannot be practiced at any lower level in our society. Local unions are, in reality, the most democratic institutions in our representative democracy. They have a higher percentage of participation in their electoral process than even the Presidential election. They adhere to the principles of the Constitution and the ideal of representative democracy.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the business community is the most undemocratic and autocratic institution in our nation. Our guaranteed rights and freedoms are surrendered at the corporation gate. For the privilege of contributing his labor to the corporation, the worker may be asked to take a lie detector test or to urinate in a cup to proof he is worthy to enter the gate. Illegal in any other place in our society, his phone calls may be monitored without his knowledge. Likewise, his e-mail and inter-office communications. He may be subjected to surveillance by secret cameras and recording devices. Who is really looking out for the interests of the working people of this country?

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