Labor vs. Freedom of Speech

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

At Jewish World Review, I encountered a George Will column that details yet another left-wing attack against freedom of speech as well as property rights.

Labor unions hope [the] exquisitely mis-titled [Employee Free Choice Act], which the House of Representatives probably will pass this week, will compensate for their dwindling persuasiveness as they try to persuade workers to join. It would allow unions to organize workplaces without workers voting for unionization in elections with secret ballots. Instead, unions could use the "card check" system: Once a majority of a company's employees signs a card expressing consent, the union is automatically certified as the bargaining agent for all the workers.

Unions say the card-check system is needed to protect workers from anti-union pressure by employers before secret-ballot elections. Such supposed pressure is one of organized labor's alibis for declining membership. [Will later points out that this system would effectively silence any anti-unionization arguments that might come up in an actual vote. --ed]

There are, however, ample protections against employer pressures that really are abusive. [This is overgenerous to the unions at best. See below. --ed] Tellingly, the act would forbid employers from trying to influence -- pressure? -- employees by improving their lot: It would fine employers that, to reduce the incentive to unionize, give workers "unilateral" -- not negotiated -- improvements in compensation or working conditions during attempts at unionization. Clearly, the act aims less to help workers than to herd them as dues-payers into unions.

Under the card-check system, unions are able to, in effect, select the voters they want. It strips all workers of privacy and exposes them, one at a time, to the face-to-face pressure of union organizers who distribute and collect the cards. The Supreme Court has said that the card-check system is "admittedly inferior to the election process." [bold added]
An old saw in economics is, "Controls breed controls," based on the observation that economic distortions caused by any given instance of government meddling in the economy will result in calls for even more government interference as a "corrective" for the resulting distortions.

But that is really just a species of a broader phenomenon, which is I would phrase in this way: "Violations of individual rights lead to other violations of individual rights." Consider the legal protections already enjoyed by unions at the expense of individual rights:
Labor cartels are immune from taxation and from antitrust laws. [We should all be "exempt" from these! --ed] Companies are legally compelled to bargain with unions in "good faith." This innocent-sounding term is interpreted by the National Labor Relations Board to suppress such practices as Boulwarism, named for a former General Electric personnel director. To shorten the collective bargaining process, Lemuel Boulware communicated the "reasonableness" of GE's wage offer directly to employees, shareholders, and the public. Unions also can force companies to make their property available for union use.

Once the government ratifies a union's position as representing a group of workers, it represents them exclusively, whether particular employees want collective representation or not. Also, union officials can force compulsory union dues from employees, members and nonmembers alike, as a condition of keeping their jobs. Unions often use these funds for political purposes -- political campaigns and voter registration, for example -- unrelated to collective bargaining or to employee grievances. Unions are relatively immune from payment of tort damages for injuries inflicted in labor disputes, from federal court injunctions, and from many state laws under the "federal preemption" doctrine. Sums up Nobel Laureate Friedrich A. Hayek: "We have now reached a state where [unions] have become uniquely privileged institutions to which the general rules of law do not apply." [bold added]
And despite the unions being above the rule of law, they have been in decline for quite some time!

Union bosses are desperate and, knowing that most Americans are used to, if not wrongly sympathetic with the state of affairs described in the above passage, the bosses seek incrementally to further erode the rights of workers and employers alike in order to preserve their power. Had this injustice not been so firmly established, no one would have the temerity to propose that anyone could be forced to have anything to do with -- let alone pay dues to -- an organization on the basis of other people being duped or pressured into making check marks on cards!

-- CAV

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