The Union Assault on Freedom of Association

The State of Michigan – the Ground Zero of America’s union-strangled zombie legacy car manufacturing industry and the modern-day Mordor of union orcs – turned against its oppressors this month. The lame-duck legislature passed a “right-to-work” law. In a nutshell, the law disallows unions from taking an automatic cut from workers’ salaries against their will.

Until now, workers in a variety of Michigan industries – or what’s left of Michigan industry, anyway – were forced to disgorge union dues every month in order to keep their jobs. The Unions, in turn, used the money to donate to pro-Union Democrat candidates who in turn would support policies that many rank-and-file union members opposed. The union member had no choice: Pay the Danegeld, or lose your livelihood. “If you don’t want to be in the union, get another job,” goes the pro-labor argument.

It’s the same deal that Daniel Day-Lewis’ character, Tomas, faced in the wonderful movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being – and in the novel by Milan Kundera. Tomas, a doctor, spoke out against the Czechoslovakian communist regime – and we shortly see him washing windows.

The freedom to go get another job, illustrated.

(Tomas later took his medical skills and productivity and emigrated from Communist Czechoslovakia to Geneva, Switzerland).

All Americans have the natural right of freedom of association, enshrined in the 1st Amendment. That freedom has no meaning unless we also recognize the freedom not to associate with objectionable organizations and movements. The Michigan legislature recognized that natural right, and codified it with right-to-work.

Now unions have to earn their membership. Unions in Michigan are no longer entitled to a share of a workers’ paycheck against their will, any more than a rapist is entitled to the use of woman’s body.

The law, of course, has the orcs howling.

Richard Eskow, a senior fellow (whatever that means) with an organization called “Campaign for America’s Future,” has penned an essay for the Huffington Post. His aim: to commandeer the language used to describe the issue. It’s not a ‘right to work’ law, claims Eskow. It’s a “right-to-shirk!”

The argument, at its heart, is an anti-freeloader argument. The unions have historically negotiated improvements in pay, retirement, medical benefits and workplace safety concessions from industry. The right-to-work law, argues Eskow and his pro-labor allies, allow workers that don’t pay union dues a “free ride” on the dues-funded activities of others.

Says Eskow:
And while we’re at it, let’s stop calling the states that have adopted this legislation “right to work.” They don’t give people any new rights. They take rights away, by making it illegal for employees to organize and negotiate together. They even take away employers’ rights – to sign a certain kind of contract.

This is, fundamentally, a lie.

The law does not “make it illegal for employees to organize and negotiate together,” any more than laws against rape make it illegal to have sex.

It just forces both sides to obtain consent.

I cannot overstate how twisted Eskow’s reasoning is – though he is not the only pro-labor voice to make the argument. Even if it is possible that a non-union worker would benefit from union activities and contract negotiations, his reasoning makes no more sense than saying spousal rape or child rape should be legal because the victims benefit from living in the rapist’s house.

The Western Kentucky Teamsters have also done their best to obfuscate the unionist assault on the freedom of association:
Indiana’s proposed “Right to Work” Act is not just anti-union, it is anti-democratic. Under the law if a majority of workers in a plant vote for a union, those who opposed the union would not have to contribute dues to the union.

To continue the rape analogy – a law that prevents a majority of workers at a plant from voting to strip the property of a minority is no more anti-democratic than laws against gang rape. At any rate, a democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. We live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy – and the AFL-CIO of Western Kentucky has forgotten that the point of living in a constitutional republic is to protect the rights of the minority from the depredations of the mob.

The Medicaid Law

To illustrate how absurd the union’s position has become, consider this: Prior to the passage of Right-to-Work, Michigan law required any parent or relative acting in the role of in-home caregiver for a disabled child or loved one – and receiving Medicaid benefits for it – to join the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. The union then forcibly took their monthly cut from the caregiver. The union had made precisely zero contribution to improving the caregiver’s working conditions. They negotiated no favorable pension agreement with Medicaid officials. They simply took their cut – and used it to fund candidates who would vote to increase the caregivers’ taxes in order to provide generous benefits for public employee union members.

Pro-union forces sought to have the arrangement in which dues were stripped from in-home caregiving parents and sent to the SEIU enshrined in the Michigan state constitution, with Proposal 4. That was a bridge too far, even for Michigan, and the measure failed.

If it weren’t for the protection of pro-union Democrat legislators, the Justice Department would have been broken up under the RICO Act. They’ve prosecuted individuals for far less egregious offenses.

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4 Responses to The Union Assault on Freedom of Association

  1. Chris O'Neill says:

    This is almost a good article. There are good points made, but all the insulting of people on the other side of the issue as being idiots taints the readers perspective of the author. Also, the rape analogy doesn’t work and it is used multiple times. I’m sure that a better analogy can be found.

  2. Jeff Milum says:

    Less than 3 percent of private sector jobs are unionized… So Much ado (and hyperbole) about very little. The author also seems to think that union members self interests are better served by republicans than democrats which is unlikely at best.

  3. David Herron says:

    This is definitely right wing orientated stuff meant to undermine unions because undermining unions undermines the Democratic party.

    What about the need of workers to band together to be strong enough to negotiate fairly with corporations? Corporations have proved over and over that they’re willing to screw anybody, conduct horrible working conditions, create any poisonous product, etc, just to make an extra buck.

  4. Hello, and thanks for reading and your comments.
    I’ll address the last commenter… yes, unions need to have the freedom to band together and bargain collectively.

    It does not follow that they have a right to members’ money against their will. If the unions are providing value to their members, they can collect dues voluntarily, like everyone else. I reject the attempt to conflate the two issues.

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