Your Right to be Owned

Last year marked many labor/business conflicts, primarily spurred by a President beholden to paying back the special interests that helped put him in office. Using Executive and Regulatory Powers, there was an unprecedented flurry of pro Big Labor actions and enactments-many of which are being undertaken to salvage a continually shrinking segment of the U.S. workforce.

While these Federal battles will spill over into 2012 and spring forth possible Legislative vs Executive power showdowns -- such as Obama's controversial appointments this week to the National Labor Relations Board --  another series of showdowns are being fought at the state level.

Many states have already passed what is referred to as a "Right to Work" law (22 to be exact). What these laws do is ensure an employee can keep his job, no matter his opinion of unions or whether he wants to pay for their "service." For instance, in a non-right to work state, a unionized business owner may only be able to hire someone who is paying for union representation. And then in a right to work state, the same business owner could hire whomever he felt could get the job done best.

It all seems pretty straightforward and that it would make a lot of sense. It also seems like it should be pretty telling when an institution, such as a labor union, has outlasted its primary value and can only remain viable in areas where the law enshrines it. There is no shortage of run-a-rounds on logic when it comes to trying to defend an anti-right to work position.

But that doesn't keep proponents of Big Labor from trying, as after all there is a lot at stake. Automatic political contributions from worker paychecks are the lifeblood of one of our major political parties, and not one they appreciate losing.

The most recent attempt is from economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Writing at, Dr. Baker lays out an argument that right to work laws create a scenario of "taxation without representation." He writes: "Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to pay for this union representation. What right-to-work laws actually guarantee is the ability for a worker to benefit from union representation without having to pay for union representation."

Furthermore, he makes a comparison of laws protecting unions to copyright laws:

"This is why the states with right-to-work laws have much lower rates of union representation than states without such laws. If the government rigs the deck against unions, then it will be very hard for them to survive, just as it would be hard to sell copyrighted material in a world where copyrights were altogether unenforceable."

So lets get this straight...if the government "rigs the deck" by making laws that allow people choice on unionization or not, it will be hard for unions to survive. And this is somehow comparable to copyright laws which make sure that people doing the work get paid for that work.

Right to work laws are more like copyright laws than the other way around. When someone gets hired because of their skills, ability, and availability to work, the union has had nothing to do with it, yet seeks to deny that worker a portion of the wages earned. With a right to work law, that worker can keep all of the wages that he has earned, and his work product is protected.

The fundamental admission made by Baker and his ilk is that they view workers as the property of the union. The arrogance is, perhaps, understandable, since they have monopoly rights to dictate to employees their terms of employment, working conditions, and ability-or inability-to find the American dream through their own merit. Thus, when legislators consider setting employees and employers free, Big Labor types freak out because they see their property fleeing.

To those in Big Labor who argue that they will lose dues and power if people have the option to pay for their "service," I say, too damn bad.

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