Posted on the web page of the Libertarian Party of Ohio. H/T Kevin Knedler.
In this tumultuous time of debate on Senate Bill 5, and Ohio’s attempt at collective bargaining reform, let’s take a look at the Right to Work laws which seem to have been placed aside.
Right to Work laws are statutes of the Taft-Hartley Act that prevent unions and employers from making contracts that force employees to join or pay dues to a union. Before the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, unions and employers could operate under ‘closed shop’ rules that make workers be a part of and pay dues to a union. An employee could also be fired if they stopped paying dues or participating in union events, even if they didn’t break any company rules. Taft-Hartley outlawed this, but still allowed ‘union shop’ rules which still forced an employee to join a union after a certain amount of time. However, employers didn’t have to fire a worker for leaving the union.
Section 14B of the Taft-Hartley Act is where our Right to Work laws come from, allowing individual states to pass them. Right to Work laws are neither for nor against unions. They are for individual freedom. Currently 22 states have Right to Work laws, and Ohio is NOT one of them. The diagram below outlines which states are forced unionism and which states are Right to Work. It also illustrates the correlation between that and how many seats in the House of Representatives were lost or gained in the 2010 Census. Ohio and New York, forced unionism states, lost two seats due to population loss, whereas Texas gained 4 and Florida, another Right to Work state, gained 2 seats from population growth. Right to Work laws were not the only reason for the mass migration of workers, but states that respect a worker’s right to choose also tend to have lower tax rates and friendlier business climates as a whole.
Supporters of Right to Work laws cite our First Amendment right to freedom of association (upheld by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama) as the source of the policy. They say that workers should be free to join or not join a union, and should not fear losing their job if they decide the union is not the best option for them. Another argument is that employees may not agree with the political parties or politicians that a particular union donates to, and do not want their dues going toward causes they disagree with.
On the other side, opponents say that Right to Work laws will allow a non-union employee to benefit from the collective bargaining of the union, without contributing to the union. They also argue that they will lose power and influence, and then employee wages drop and safety hazards increase. Opponents have also argued that such laws requiring workers to join a union never existed, and that Right to Work laws are redundant and anti-union.
The Libertarian Party platform (www.lp.org/platform) states in section 2.7 that “We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union.” A simple way to say this and to clarify the argument for and against the concept of Right to Work laws is that unions, employers, and employees working within a capitalist, free-market system must provide value for their goods or services or be forced to go out of business. If a union is providing adequate value to its members, then not only will they happily pay their dues, but other workers will be inclined to join as well. If a union is not providing enough value to support their dues collections, then workers will choose not to join their union and the union should go out of business. What unions seem to be asking for is governmental protection from the free labor market. They are attempting to collude with government to force workers to pay up or lose their jobs. Voluntary union membership is a fine thing. Forcing people to pay for membership to a club they do not want to join as a condition of employment is not in the best interest of freedom and liberty.