February 27, 2011
End Forced Unionism
Where would we be without labor unions? We would be much better off.
Americans do not understand what "labor unions" mean. Nothing prevents a group of workers at a plant or office from getting together, signing an agreement which delegates power to negotiate contracts to certain representatives, and then proceeding with collective bargaining by those workers who chose to sign the agreement. That is not unionism; it is simply a business arrangement, much like when an athlete has an agent or a client has a lawyer.
The problem with unionism is that those who do not feel such an agreement is needed are compelled to surrender their right to bargain for their working conditions and compelled, as well, to support a vast, expensive bureaucracy of labor satraps. It is coercion of workers masked as industrial democracy. If 49% of the "represented" workers want a wage freeze but more vacation time, and that is not the official union position, then the union bosses are working against the interest of these workers. If many workers feel union rules reduce efficiency, and so the prospects of more jobs, those workers have to pay for the privilege of their representatives doing exactly the opposite of what these wish.
Coerced unions were always unnecessary, wasteful, and immoral -- and all unions today are coerced unions. Depending upon whether a state has a "closed shop" (only members of a union can be hired, and these must comply with union rules) or "union shop" (new employees must join the union after being hired), if a state has no right to work law, employers must negotiate with the union instead of the individual worker. Only 22 states now have right to work laws, although robust Republican state governments could add six more states to that column, five in the Great Lakes region alone.
Our Great Lakes Region was once the industrial dynamo of the world. Unions murdered its prosperity. Towns and cities in the Great Lakes that ought to be humming with activity are now dwindling into ghost towns.
People invariably can be persuaded that in free economic transactions, like the decision of people to work in a coalmine or tractor factory, the workers are getting the short end of the stick. Market economics, however, prevents "exploitation" from being more than a brief aberration and these fluctuations are as likely to unjustly enrich workers (for a short time) as to enrich employers. Only a mind focused on envy and anger can pretend that laws denying the liberty of employment somehow make life better.
It is blindingly clear to any open mind that unions, especially public employee unions, do not even pretend to make an economic argument for their position. Labor negotiations, more and more, are simply exercises in naked political power. The dues snatched involuntarily from workers who oppose being drafted into supporting collectivist Democrats are used to buy politicians. Aside from the crushing "tax" upon our nation's economy which union dues and union restrictions on liberty cost our nation, the social effect of a work environment smothered beneath big labor, big business, and big government squeezes most Americans into lonely atoms in the business of America.
These leviathans are the antithesis of what our country needs to survive and to thrive in a world of instant communication, evolving technology, and global market price systems. Few, if any, people in history have been such rugged individualists as Americans. Our ability to innovate, to adapt quickly, to push unconventional approaches to their limits -- all these have made us great, and in more than just wealth and power. Unions are the antipode of this supreme American virtue. Unions are the incarnation of the putrid body of Marx and all his bitter disciples.
Unions, including especially public employee unions, have function only in a grim universe of constant conflict and suspicion. They are close siblings of feminists who find transcendent grievance in the fact of gender. Unions find family with "civil rights" activists, whose wealth and power are dependent upon the hopelessness of black people. Unions are natural cousins of personal injury lawyers whose only commandment is "Do anything to win" or leftist politicians whose guiding principle is "Promise anything."
The America of 2011 is shackled with crippling chains -- tax rates, particularly on capital gains; environmental regulations calculated to impoverish us into "green" living; goose-stepping media who sappily salute any sin of leftism; militant atheism masking as some sort of faux-Americanism; vast and awful pyramids of public debt and fathomless seas of future entitlements -- and so much more. Do we want a bright future? Do we want our country back? Abolish forced unionism, beginning with government workers. Republicans are weak, far too weak, on this particular issue. Unions are not just the political enemy of Republicans; they are the ideological enemies of liberty. Republicans should heed the quip of President Reagan when his assistants warned that some of his policies were too extreme: "What are they going to do to me? Hang me from a higher tree?"
Governor Walker in Wisconsin is experiencing now what every Republican governor who tries any real reform of the workplace will encounter: fanatical, take-no-prisoners, hatred. Why not push for total victory and a free, productive workplace throughout the land?
Bruce Walker is the author of a new book: Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life