Unions vs. “Right-to-work”

by | Jan 3, 2012

A number of conservatives, such as  Senator Rand Paul, have been promoting “right-to-work” legislation in response to the growing power of labor unions. On the surface, such legislation might appear to be consistent with free market principles. But is it? Wikipedia says that Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states, mostly in the […]

A number of conservatives, such as  Senator Rand Paul, have been promoting “right-to-work” legislation in response to the growing power of labor unions. On the surface, such legislation might appear to be consistent with free market principles. But is it?

Wikipedia says that

Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring, which would require the workplace to be a closed shop.

Where pro-union legislation, such as the National Labor Relations Act, force employers to negotiate with labor union leaders, right-to-work legislation prohibits employers from making union membership a condition of employment. In both instances, employers are prohibited from acting on their own judgment.

There is no such thing as a right to work. There is only the right of an employer to offer a job and the right of an employee to accept that offer. Morally, each should be free to act on his own judgment. The employer should be free to stipulate whatever conditions of employment he desires, and the employee should also be free to accept those he finds acceptable and reject those he does not.

If an employer believes that dealing with a labor union is beneficial to his business, he should be free to make union membership a condition of employment. Similarly, if he does not want to deal with labor union leaders, he should be free to refuse to do so. No matter his decision, if he is unable to find the workers that his business needs, he will either change his decision or go out of business.

The solution to the political power of labor unions is not further restrictions on the freedom of business owners. The solution is to get government completely out of the employer/employee relationship. The solution is to repeal all laws that force employers to act contrary to their own judgment.

Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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