over the country some employees face this situation: Although they
have deliberately refused to join a labor union, the federal government
is forcing them to pay union dues on the grounds that they are benefiting
from high wages unions allegedly have achieved for not just their
members but for all the workers where they are employed. How else
could they send letters to these non-union workers asserting that
they are owed the dues? What if the workers refuse to pay? Why can
they be threatened with being forced to leave the jobs they hold?
you say, these are private contracts entered into by the unions
and the employers. But that is weird – how could such a contract obligate
other than those who enter into it? Can I write up a contract with
Joe, here, in line with which you, Harry, have to pay me money?
Isn't that involuntary servitude rather than employment?
course it is. Yet throughout the country employees are receiving
such notices and they seem to have the force of law behind them?
the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner
Act) has empowered the unions to coerce non-members to pay, never
mind the consent of these non-members. As I've been informed, a
union that's been voted in by a majority of the bargaining unit
has a monopoly in representation over all workers in the unit, even
those who voted no for the union. It is illegal for any worker to
bargain individually, or to join any other union. So the idea is
that a majority can conscript the minority to its deals. (See Morgan
and Privilege, for more on this. See, also, Tibor R. Machan,
Rights and Public Illusions, Chapter 10, "Some Philosophical
Aspects of National Labor Policy.")
may say, but they ought to pay because they are getting better deals
as a result of the union's negotiations. But this is also weird.
I make improvements on my home that reduces the fire hazard for
not just me but my neighbors, even though I never asked my neighbors
to share the cost of this, I have no justification for forcing my
neighbor to pay. If my improvements increase the market value of
their homes, not just mine, I still have no justification for extracting
payment from them.
bestowed upon others they never signed up for cannot possibly obligate
them – otherwise all the pretty women in the world could collect hefty
sums from all those who delight in looking at them.
idea of the unions, which has been sanctioned and given legal backing
by governments, is sheer extortion. But it also has some pretty
hefty economic consequences. Sometimes unions manage to get employers
to agree, contractually, not to hire non-union employees, but this
isn't what unions are doing when they force non-union employees
to pay dues after they are already on the job.
that employees are forced – the letters they receive often uses the
phrase "you are required" – to pay the union dues whether
they are members or not, their wages effectively drop. And the employer
is now asked to make up for this, which of course increases the
cost of whatever goods and services the employee helps produce.
of course, decreases the competitiveness of the company's products,
increasing the pressure to take the business someplace where unions
haven't gotten into bed with governments in order to be able to
perpetrate the extortion to which they are clearly not entitled
but which they has managed to finagle with the force of law!
again it is government, at the urgings of vested interests, that
has managed to make the American job market too expensive for at
least a portion of employers and thus has contributed to driving
them to seek a more hospitable climate.
of free trade, at least consistent ones, those with integrity, are
not blind to the fact that people who hold decent jobs in America
often suffer considerably when these jobs go to others around the
globe. And if such shifts are the result of the choices of consumers,
customers, such is life and one simply must adjust, however inconvenient
that may be. One has no right to force customers to keep patronizing
companies just because these companies and their employees are being
downsized when costumers leave. Anyone who has ever been laid off
because of such economic shifts can fully appreciate how rotten
such a thing feels, how much pain it involves. Still, the right
to freedom of association means customers may walk if that's what
they choose to do, just as employees may leave a job if they so
when government's coercive policy brings about such economic shifts,
the situation is different and protests are fully justified. Sadly,
enemies of free trade tend not to pick their targets well and instead
blame companies and foreign workers.
him mail] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most pertinently, The
Business of Commerce: Examining an Honorable Profession,
co-authored with James Chesher.