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Right to Work: A Liberty Issue

By matt burrow

By now, even Americans who pay only marginal attention to politics are well aware of the union disputes taking place in Wisconsin and across the country. And while protesters have been gathering at State Capitols for weeks, the issue of worker freedom has been around for decades.  In fact, before FDR signed the Wagner Act into law as part of his “New Deal” in 1935, every American possessed the Right to Work.  This simply meant that employees enjoyed the right to participate in a union, but could not be forced to join a union or pay dues to a union in order to get or keep a job.  The right to collectively bargain and the Right to Work appropriately went hand in hand.  As Tom Woods succinctly points out:

“Freedom of contract and association were essential principles… An employee was free to withhold his labor services if unsatisfied with his employer’s terms; likewise, a group of laborers jointly exercising this individual right were permitted to do so. No one, however, was allowed to prevent individuals who wished to work from exercising their right to do so.”

Yet under current federal law, if a majority of employees in a workforce vote to unionize, the entire workforce is consequently forced to join the union, pay costly union dues, and relinquish all of their bargaining rights to the union boss.  This coercive power granted to unions by the federal government is most often called “collective bargaining”, but more accurately referred to as forced unionism, compulsory unionism, or monopoly bargaining. Without the freedom to withhold dues or decline union representation, American workers are rendered powerless and union bosses remain completely unaccountable to their members.  And to make matters worse, as Tom Woods notes, the unions are never subject to re-election:

“Once officially designated by a majority of workers as the exclusive bargaining agent for all workers, the union is never required to stand for re-election. Even after all the workers who originally voted for the union have died or retired, the union is simply assumed to have the support of a majority of workers. The new slate of workers has no say in the matter at all.”

The most common misconception about Right to Work, being spread feverishly by Big Labor and its comrades in the mainstream media, is that employees would be denied their “collective bargaining rights.”  This could not be farther from the truth. Last week, National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix sat down with Campaign for Liberty President John Tate in a two-part interview to clarify and articulate what the current debate is really over: a choice between worker freedom or the coercion of monoply bargaining.

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