Right to Work and Individual Rights

The Right to Work clause came into existence in 1935, embedded in the Taft-Hartely Law.  It means that (a) employees may not be forced to join a union, that (b) employers need not hire only those who agree to join a union, and (c) that employers need not fire employees for failing to join a union or pay union dues.

For over half a century, the clause was ignored.  Union bosses and their political allies forced employers to fire those who did not join a union or pay dues to a union, and they forced employees to join a union as a condition of employment and to pay union dues.

With millions of employees federally forced to join unions and pay dues, unions had massive funds, which would vanish if the Right to Work clause were implemented.  So union bosses lobbied ferociously, bribing and threatening politicians to repeal the Right to Work clause.

But for the same number of years, consistently favoring the Right to Work, the electorate voted out of office those politicians who supported its repeal.

After years of struggle, Idaho -- apparently the first state to take action -- put the RTW clause on the ballot in 1986.  The electorate voted for it overwhelmingly.  Today, 23 states have enacted Right to Work.

What benefits, if any, accrued to them?

An easily understandable article on the RTW is that of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research entitled "Real Earnings Higher in Right to Work States."

Its author, Stan Greer, refers to the study made by F. Howard Nelson, "a veteran researcher for the 1.3 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union."

The Nelson Index looks at a variety of economic factors, measuring them from different perspectives.  For instance, an average worker in non-Right to Work California would have to earn almost $65,000 per annum in order to enjoy the same pre-tax earning power of a worker in Right to Work Florida earning only $50,00 a year.  Additionally, the Californian would have to pay a significantly greater portion of his nominally higher income in federal income taxes.  The result is that the California worker's after-tax standard of living is actually lower than the Floridian's.

The reason why the Right to Work Floridian is better off than the union-controlled Californian is not, however, the exclusive result of differences in taxes.  Certainly, the lower tax rate makes a difference.  But more important is the option not to join a union and pay union dues.  The dues the Floridian does not have to pay make for money he now has available to use, save, or invest as he chooses.

How much better off is the Floridian?  "After subtracting state income taxes and all federal taxes, the 2000 cost-of-living-adjusted mean weekly earnings of employees in Right to Work states was $484, compared to just $468 in non-Right to Work states."

Whether the employees' money goes into a bank or into a security, it is an investment.  As such, the money enables the fiduciary agent to grant a loan to bankroll someone's house -- paying for movers, new furniture, landscaping, and so forth -- or to finance a business start-up, or expansion.

In either case, the investment means that work is farmed out, more jobs are opened up, more value is offered.  The union dues an employee is not forced to pay make for money he can invest in his own personal happiness.  The result is an expanding economy, a rising standard of living.

Money forced into union dues is a dead end.

The original Nelson Index rested on 2000 figures, the most recent then available.  As time passed, Dr. Nelson periodically updated his figures.  His "Interstate Cost-of-Living" Index shows that living expenses for employees in non-Right to Work states are overall 4.4% higher than the national average.  Overall living costs in Right to Work states are 7.1% more affordable than the national average."  Thus, "the real earnings of employees in Right to Work states are shown to be higher."

What does this mean in dollars and cents?  Consider one of the worse-case scenarios: the Nelson Index ranks New Mexico, a non-Right to Work state, below the national average.  Recently, the Rio Grande Foundation published its study of the effect of Right to Work on business growth and increased personal income in New Mexico.  The Foundation concluded that were New Mexico to become a Right to Work state, "[b]y 2020, New Mexico would have 42,300 more people working ... [and that] the state's personal income would be nearly $5 billion higher, and wage and salary income would be $2.2 billion higher."

But why?  Why does prohibiting the use of force have such a hugely beneficial effect on economic growth and prosperity?

The National Institute of Labor Relations Research answers the question.  Mr. Greer begins his article by correctly identifying the foundation of the Right to Work clause: "Big Labor propaganda against Right to Work legislation and laws rarely focuses on the principle at stake: freedom of association."

Later he states: "... Right to Work laws are not merely or even primarily an economic development tool.  Right to Work laws and legislation are really a matter of freedom, not economics."

True.  But go deeper still.  Individual rights are the foundation of freedom.  "Freedom is the absence of force."  Without individual rights, freedom does not exist.  To the extent one's rights are violated, to that extent is one's freedom is curtailed, ultimately to be destroyed altogether.

By definition, individual rights include the assurance that no man may violate the rights of another with impunity.  A culture permeated by freedom is a culture enjoying the essential condition for prosperity: protection and recognition of individual rights.

Philosophically, the Right to Work clause is the recognition of man's right to think for himself, to make his own choices and decisions -- i.e., his right to life.

Psychologically, assurance of individual rights manifests itself in an increase in self-esteem, self-confidence, and willingness and eagerness to bring to fruition one's goals and values.  The result is the exceedingly powerful incentive to action: personal happiness.

Personal happiness fuels productivity.  Prosperity results.

So why do union bosses continue to block implementation of the RTW clause?  Here are two excerpts from Mr. Greer's article that explains it:

Where forced dues are legal, union officials use their power to dislocate labor markets, jack up costs, and bankroll Tax-and-Spend, regulation-happy state legislators and governors.

In many cases, forced-dues treasury money goes to support not only bargaining positions, but also political candidates and causes that many or most forced dues-paying workers oppose.

The recent attempt of the SEIU in California shows that the struggle between union bosses and employees continues.  And it will continue until the electorate boots out of political office all those who collude with union bosses and force employers and employees to their will.

Perhaps a new day is near.  Perhaps the electorate will take the fight to the voting booth in 2012 and vote out of office all those -- which includes Obama and his administration -- who violate and reject man's right to life, property, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.