NOTE: I was working on a new essay when I realized none of my old works on unions had been reproduced here. Thus I am copying over these essays from my archive of "Random Notes".
Townhall's Spotlight newsletter recently weighed in on the issue of the Employee Free Choice Act. They have taken the obvious position of opposition to the coercive new law which would eliminate the secret ballot and open employees to intimidation and harassment by union bullies. However, I think Townhall does not go far enough. Rather than just opposing coercive tactics of union goons, I think it is time for conservatives to take a tough stand and say that the day of the coercive union is at an end. There is no longer any justification, if there ever was, to force people to join unions simply to be able to work.
Think about the law as it now exists in a number of states. You want to work for an employer, that employer wants to have you work for him. But, to "protect you", you now must give a part of your paycheck to a union in order to work there. And should you object to this forced payment, then the law prohibits you from taking the job. It does not matter that both you and the employer are happy to engage in an employment contract, it does not matter that you object to the policies of the union and would willingly forgo any services they provide, you must pay them for their "protection" or you cannot hold the job.
Worse still, think about this situation. You work for a company. You are completely happy there. However, union organizers come in and manage to persuade, bribe or bully 50% of your coworkers into signing up. Suddenly, you must pay protection money to the union or face losing your job. It does not matter that the union has brought you no benefits, that you were perfectly happy to work for the company before and would like to continue working there. It does not matter that the union uses your money to support political positions with which you disagree, you must pay them off or lose your job.
It is time for unions as coercive entities to end. If people wish to voluntarily join unions, they should be free to do so, but the unions should have no more legal recognition than any other organization. Employees can still try to get management to collectively bargain with unions if they wish, but if they cannot convince a majority of employees to joint he union, they should not have the power to compel employees to join with the threat of being forced out of their jobs. Like every group, unions should be voluntary.
I don't know why it is so hard to get conservatives to argue this point. The Republicans continue to act as if they will get the union vote, despite the fact that the union management has consistently been Democrat for generations, and the union rank and file, often as disillusioned with unions as the conservatives are, are not likely to be upset at the prospect of no longer shipping off due to let union bosses live it up in Washington. Do Republicans really think taking an anti-union stand is going to lose them any votes?
And there is one additional benefit for the politicians who fight to end closed shops. They will be fighting for the constitution. After all, as I read it, the first amendment guarantees freedom of association, which also means the freedom to NOT associate. So fighting against coercive union membership is actually a strong first amendment position.
And wouldn't it be nice to see the left trying to argue that the first amendment isn't important for a change?
Originally published in Random Notes on 2008/09/17.