There have been a few states pass right-to-work laws recently. As you can imagine, it’s lit a firestorm of debate between both conservatives and liberals over the nature of the relationship among employers, unions, and government.
What should a government do? Should it regulate the relationships between employer and employee? Should it prevent unions from making exclusive deals with businesses? Should it make sure that someone who doesn’t want to work in a union is allowed it?
Nothing. No. No. No.
Those are the answers to the questions.
Believe me when I tell you that I am not a union guy by any stretch of the imagination. If the choice were left up to me, I’d never join one. If I ever own a business, I would not allow my workers to unionize. But that’s me. There are plenty of people out there who want union representation or want a union workforce. So who am I to tell those people they can’t have unions?
If someone doesn’t want to join a union, he should have every right to refuse membership. That, however, does not mean you can transfer that right to other people’s property (i.e., business).
What makes an agreement between an employee and his workers regarding unionization different from any other sort of arrangement? If an employer, who owns the business, wants to have a union workforce, he has the right to determine how he runs his business. We can argue all we want about whether or not a union workforce will harm his business, but that’s completely immaterial here.
Union representation could be just another requirement for employment like certifications, degrees, passage of drug tests, etc. Most conservatives don’t complain about that, so what’s the difference with unionization?
It’s immensely frustrating for me when right-to-work supporters talk about freedom of association to back their arguments up. How do you support freedom of association when you don’t allow businesses to freely associate with the workers they hire?
On the flip side, it’s also clearly wrong for unions to cuddle up with the government in order to write laws that force employers to use unions. I also take serious issue with the government preventing businesses from opening because they don’t plan on using union labor. If someone posts jobs and people are willing to take them without organized representation, what need is there for the government to step in and regulate the voluntary transactions?
For both liberals and conservatives, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. If you think that unions are crushing the economy, then let businesses freely choose if they want unions working for them. If they are terrible, union companies will lag behind. If you believe that unions are important for the protection of the middle class and economic progress, then people should freely want to organize and businesses will be required to use unions to get the best workers.
Government is never the answer. Right-to-work laws are just another way for government to stick its nose where it shouldn’t be.