“Right to Work”: A Right We All Deserve

Do me a favor. The next time you’re driving down the highway for, let’s say, more than ten minutes, make sure you examine the bumpers of the cars around you. Then, take a mental note of how many of those bumpers have stickers defaming “Right to Work” legislation. If you count less than five, I’ll buy you a soda*. Now perhaps my vision is skewed. Living in Missouri, a state that currently has Right to Work legislation being discussed in its senate, I’m sure I see an inflated percentage of people lobbying against the legislation as it is a hot topic right now. Or do I? After all, “Right to Work” is legislation which steps on the toes of labor unions, and if there is one thing labor unions are good at, and you’ve got to give the devils their due on this one, it’s, well, uniting. In the interest of full disclosure, I myself have been a member of a union for four plus years. As a grocery worker, I was forced (spoiler alert: because my state did not have Right to Work legislation) to join the UFCW, conditional to my employment. I never participated in any event, nor did I ever attend a meeting (at the cost of a $50 refund on initial union dues to myself). I did, however, pay a certain amount of union dues which escapes me at the moment, which were subtracted weekly from my paycheck without any more permission from me than that I continued to work there. It is my belief that Right to Work legislation would disallow this sort of situation, and thus would be a fair and appropriate step in labor fairness legislation.

Let me first state one thing. As a conservative, I am fairly thoroughly against the concept of labor unions in the modern day, but that is not to say that they did not at one point serve a purpose. Certainly, during the Industrial Revolution and the horrifically poor working conditions that came with it, there was a definite need for workers to band together to ensure not only a decent work environment, but their own safety. If you don’t believe (and I know many hardnosed conservatives may not) take a moment to read about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. My argument here, however, is not as to whether labor unions once served a purpose, nor is it to even argue their purpose now. I simply aim to examine Right to Work legislation and its validity and usefulness to the labor worker.

For those unfamiliar with Right to Work legislation, allow me to give a very short, admittedly oversimplified definition. Right to Work is a type of law along a line of legislation some fifty or sixty years in the works which calls for the forced involvement of laborers in labor unions to be abolished. Currently, fewer than half of the states of the Union have Right to Work type legislation. Just to clarify, that’s the big “U” Union. Now arguments both in favor and against right to work legislation are many, and I cannot begin to document them all here, but for a good argument for the laws, look here, and an equally valid argument against here. These are each just one argument, but they are solid arguments, now let me give mine.

Conditional of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, modern businesses have little option but to negotiate with unions, and while there may once have been many unions fighting for the rights of the same body of laborers, given the very nature of unions, there is now generally one per field. This is because once a union has established itself, and has majority support, it is very unlikely that another will overthrow it. As mentioned in the argument for Right to Work laws I linked to earlier, laws about the formation, continuance, and existence of unions have been federally created. This gives states little power over unions or how they treat members. Therefore, my argument is largely one of federalism. I believe states ought to be allowed to govern many things, particularly commerce within their own borders. Right to Work legislation gives them some power to regulate unions, and it is a power they need.

Beyond that, however, I believe that each individual has the right to choose what groups he joins, who he associates with, etc. As someone who has been forced to join a labor union, particularly as a conservative, I know the frustrations of being forced into association with a group with which you do not agree, and being the minority voice in that party. I ask you to think of another situation where that is the case? Where else in this great country can someone be forced to join in with a group that does not share his political beliefs, and then be part of so distinct a minority that he has no voice whatsoever? Then, on top of that, this person with no voice is forced, I reiterate, forced to pay dues to this union which will then use his money to support causes against his political beliefs. This is another major problem with unions in the modern age. They are now equal parts labor federations and political lobbies, and if you disagree with their political causes, yet are forced to pay them dues, you are forced transitively to support political causes against your leanings. That is completely and utterly un-American. I know for a fact that the union I was a member of donated to the campaign of Barack Obama for President in 2008, a campaign I was staunchly opposed to, and I gave them money, through no choice of my own, so that they could afford that support. That does not sit well with me, nor does it sit well with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Finally, I realize that this is a divisive issue. I realize that for every union member that disagrees with their politics, there are probably five or six members that agree. It should be their right to associate with the union just as much as it should be anyone else’s right to disassociate with the union, and while I realize that they would argue this creates free-riders, they themselves would have the choice to not join the union. And we also cannot argue that those that don’t wish to join a union can simply get another job. First of all, with unemployment hovering around %9, no one can afford to just “get another job,” and secondly, I can hardly think of a blue collar level field which does not have a major union it associates with. Many people cannot get jobs that don’t go with unions, and some cannot afford to join those unions. Unions, once the voice of the voiceless, an army for the individual to join and protect his rights, now force involvement and stamp out the minority just as viciously as employers once did. Right to Work can help destroy this trend in American labor, and I hope for all those voiceless blue collar workers that it does just that.

That’s all for now, folks. Have a wonderful week.

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