The trade union movement has been feeling its oats lately. It has the strong support of President Obama, who is counting on union manpower to help his re-election effort. Unions also flexed their muscles in Wisconsin as they threatened Governor Scott Walker with recall for having the temerity to change the laws that enabled state workers to collectively bargain the state into bankruptcy. But they suffered a major defeat yesterday when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a right-to-work statute recently passed by the legislature there. The bill curtails the ability of unions to compel non-members to join or pay fees as a price of employment.
The measure is yet another indication that the American people understand that while unions serve a purpose, their political agenda is more about power and leverage than the rights of workers. The concept of the “union shop” in which the government allows workers to be bullied and taxed into submission is repugnant. It also is the underlying factor behind the trend by which powerful municipal and state unions have used their leverage to win contracts taxpayers cannot afford. Though Indiana, like the battles over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, is just one front in a wide-ranging battle to overturn the tyranny of union thuggery, it is a signal triumph that should encourage other states to do the same (currently only 23 states have right-to-work laws).
The argument put forth by the unions that they only wish to stop some workers from benefitting from their negotiating efforts without paying for them is utterly disingenuous. As Jeff Jacoby writes in the Boston Globe in a brilliant takedown of those who oppose right-to-work laws:
That’s not a principle, it’s a shameless pretext. Unions demand monopoly bargaining power — the right to exclusively represent everyone in a workplace — and then insist that each of those workers must pay for the privilege. This is the “principle” of the squeegee-man who aggressively wipes your windshield when you stop at a red light, then demands that you pay for the service he has rendered you.
By the union’s “free-rider” logic, shouldn’t all voters be forced to subscribe to a daily newspaper, since all of them benefit from its journalism? And shouldn’t every company be compelled to support the Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies on behalf of business whether individual firms ask it to or not?
The passion with which Big Labor fights right-to-work helps explain why so many Americans have abandoned unions. The labor movement was born in freedom and choice. That’s not what it stands for anymore.
The struggle against union coercion is not a minor issue. Unless states find the political will to stand up against the unions and restore a semblance of democracy to the workplace and the bargaining table, the vast tide of public debt will eventually overwhelm the ability of citizens to pay for it. Big labor is fighting hard to preserve its grip on power and the public purse. The question voters in Wisconsin and many other states will have to answer in the coming months and years is whether the taxpayers have the will and the courage to resist them.