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Right-to-Work Laws Shouldn’t Exist, so Why Am I Happy about What Happened in Michigan?
Townhall.com ^ | December 15, 2012 | Daniel J. Mitchell

Posted on 12/15/2012 8:05:00 AM PST by Kaslin

I was very critical of the General Motors bailout since it largely was designed to give undeserved special benefits to the UAW union. I’m also very down of teacher unions because they sabotage reforms that would help poor children trapped in failed government schools.

And I’m definitely opposed to the excessive pay and benefits that politicians grant to bureaucrats in exchange for votes and money from government employee unions (as cleverly depicted in this great Michael Ramirez cartoon).

So why, then, do I have mixed feelings about the recently enacted right-to-work law in Michigan?

Here’s some of what I wrote almost 25 years ago for the Villanova Law Review, beginning with my general philosophy on the role of government in labor markets.

…government should not interfere with certain personal decisions, including the freedom of employers and employees to contract freely, unfettered by labor regulations. …My position is one of strict neutrality. The government should not take side in employer-employee issues. …this is a question of property rights. If another person owns a business, I do not have a right to interfere with his choices as to what he does with his property – so long as he does not interfere with my rights of life, liberty, and property.

That’s all fine and well. Standard libertarian boilerplate, one might even say, and I’ve certainly expressed these views on television (see here, here, and here).

But then I explore some implications. If you believe in a system based on property rights and private contracts, then right-to-work laws are an unjust form of intervention.

…a property rights perspective also would reject so-called right-to-work laws which infringe upon the employers’ freedom of contract to hire only union members which is something employers may wish to do since it can lower transactions costs. …Some would argue that nobody should be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. The relevant issue in this instance, however, is not whether one can be forced to join a union, because a person cannot; if he does not like the union, he can refuse the job. The real issue is whether a business and its employees should have the freedom to choose to sign contracts which have union membership as a condition of employment.

All that being said, I’m glad Michigan just enacted a right-to-work law. I know it’s not ideal policy, but my rationale is that most government labor laws (such as the National Labor Relations Act and the Norris–La Guardia Act) tilt the playing field in favor of unions.

So until that glorious day when we get government out of labor markets, I view right-to-work laws as a second-best alternative. They’re a form of intervention that partially compensates for other forms of intervention.

A good analogy is that I don’t like tax loopholes, but I like the fact that they enable people to keep more of the money they earn. The ideal system, of course, would be a simple and fair flat tax. But in the absence of real reform, I don’t want politicians to get rid of preferences if it means they get more of our money to waste. Deductions should only be eliminated if they use every penny of additional revenue to lower tax rates.

Returning to what happened in Michigan, let’s close with an amusing cartoon that mocks Obama’s dismal record on jobs.

Cartoon Right to Work

P.S. Since I’ve written something that might appeal to union bosses, I feel the need to compensate. So feel free to enjoy some good cartoons mocking unionized bureaucrats by clicking here, here, here, and here.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; US: Michigan
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 12/15/2012 8:05:06 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
But then I explore some implications. If you believe in a system based on property rights and private contracts, then right-to-work laws are an unjust form of intervention.

All right to work laws provide, is a choice for employees.

People who do not support what unions do, should have the ability to be teachers, auto workers, or anything else they want to do, without being shut out by a union.

I support that.

While we're pondering this issue, lets focus in part on the fact that employers cannot prevent unions from taking over. If employees vote to go union, the employer can either submit or close his business.

That's hardly a free market at work.

2 posted on 12/15/2012 8:17:06 AM PST by DoughtyOne (Hurricane Sandy..., a week later and over 60 million Americans still didn't have power.)
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To: Kaslin
The relevant issue in this instance, however, is not whether one can be forced to join a union, because a person cannot; if he does not like the union, he can refuse the job.

That has got to be the dumbest thing I read today. Of course it is not noon yet so I am sure some other piece of nonsense will assault me before the day ends but so far this is hands down the winner.

3 posted on 12/15/2012 8:23:01 AM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Fate plays chess and you don't find out until too late that he's been using two queens all along)
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To: Kaslin
I think conservative union members deserve a lot more credit than they're getting here in Michigan. I doubt it would have happened without them helping to give Rick Snyder some cover from within the unions.

Vernuccio and Lehman: An Inspiration and a Warning From Michigan
4 posted on 12/15/2012 8:28:04 AM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear

...and I don’t like high taxation...


5 posted on 12/15/2012 8:29:15 AM PST by sasquatch
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To: Kaslin

It looks like Panetta and Bob Beckel.


6 posted on 12/15/2012 8:37:23 AM PST by A Strict Constructionist (We're an Oligrachy...Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God. Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Kaslin
Unions are obsolete. They have no raison d’être. They have and are still contributing to our financial crisis. Ridiculous retirement benefits that force companies to go broke. Forcing employers to keep useless unqualified overpaid employees.

Greedy unions have destroyed themselves. As membership continues to decline, it will happen faster and faster until the only union left will be the Buggy Whip Union.

7 posted on 12/15/2012 8:42:17 AM PST by faucetman ( Just the facts, ma'am, Just the facts)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear

On the other hand in a fair world also the union would have nothing beyond its ability to sell itself on its own economic merits. It wouldn’t be required by law to be recognized by anybody who didn’t want to recognize it. You can’t have unions-as-we-know-them-today coexisting with this kind of libertarian philosophy.


8 posted on 12/15/2012 8:43:12 AM PST by HiTech RedNeck (How long before all this "fairness" kills everybody, even the poor it was supposed to help???)
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To: Kaslin

I can help this clown. If workers want to organize and possibly strike, then they should have every right to organize. And if they strike or cannot reach agreement, then the employer should have every right to fire them and replace them. That would level the playing field a bit.


9 posted on 12/15/2012 8:47:04 AM PST by BobL (Did you know that the Chinese now buy close to twice as many new cars as Americans each year?)
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To: faucetman

Unionized health care workers will be in place once the federal government takes full control of our nation’s health care.


10 posted on 12/15/2012 8:58:30 AM PST by listenhillary (Courts, law enforcement, roads and national defense should be the extent of government)
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To: Kaslin

The premise of his article seems to be that the employee is chattel of the employer or union and therefore not free...which is where we seem to be heading based on the actions of both parties. Serfdom is serfdom the only difference is who is the lord of the manor.


11 posted on 12/15/2012 9:00:38 AM PST by A Strict Constructionist (We're an Oligrachy...Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God. Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Kaslin
Sorry Daniel but the "unjust form of intervention" occurred years ago when the government inserted itself on behalf of a 3rd party (the unions) and against not only the employer but the employee as well.

If it is your belief that the natural state would be no right-to-work laws and no anti right-to-work laws then I would agree. But given the sordid history of unions in the US - especially over the last forty years or so - I prefer legislation that protects an individuals right to work unfettered and unmolested by monsters.

12 posted on 12/15/2012 9:06:42 AM PST by rockrr (Everything is different now...)
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To: cripplecreek

If there really was a ‘right to work’ 24,000,000 would not be looking for jobs.


13 posted on 12/15/2012 9:20:01 AM PST by ex-snook (without forgiveness there is no Christianity)
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To: Kaslin

Mandatory union membership ought not to exist, either.


14 posted on 12/15/2012 9:28:43 AM PST by E. Pluribus Unum ("The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state." - Cornelius Tacitus, Roman Senator)
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To: cripplecreek

Fair point. I know this was the Democrat demographic that Reagan was able to capture and his lackluster successors have not.


15 posted on 12/15/2012 9:55:50 AM PST by Psalm 144 (Capitol to the districts: "May the odds be ever in your favor.")
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Unions feel that the only ones with the right to work are Union members.


16 posted on 12/15/2012 9:59:04 AM PST by Venturer
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To: Psalm 144

And despite what moderates try to convince us of, Reagan won that demographic with a complete social/fiscal conservative message. (not cowering from social issues)

I know among my union neighbors there was considerable support for Santorum. My neighbor even had a Santorum sign in his yard and he’s a union steward.


17 posted on 12/15/2012 10:06:33 AM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear

“The relevant issue in this instance, however, is not whether one can be forced to join a union, because a person cannot; if he does not like the union, he can refuse the job.

That has got to be the dumbest thing I read today.”
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
Oh, it makes perfect sense, just like no one can be forced to live under the current dictatorship, we all have the right to leave the country or drop dead, you see. Well, some may not have a passport or be able to obtain one but they can still drop dead if they don’t like having their natural rights stolen from them. What? Does that not actually make perfect sense to you?

What planet did you say this is?


18 posted on 12/15/2012 10:33:08 AM PST by RipSawyer (I was born on Earth, what planet is this?)
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To: Kaslin

This is basically a repeat of the Federalists vs Anti-Federalists positions on the need for the Bill of Rights.

The Federalists arguing that the Bill of Rights wasn’t needed because the Constitution made it clear that the Federal govt. only had limited “enumerated” powers. And that if you actually made of list of proscribed powers it would eventually be flipped around and used as a list of whatever is not proscribed is permitted.

And the Anti-Federalists arguing that they didn’t trust the Federalists so the enumerated powers clause wasn’t adequate. And they wanted to make certain some things were definitely off limits.

This is one of those rare moments when both sides ended up being right. There’s no way in hell the enumerated powers clause would have stopped the statists from continually increasing the power of the Fed, And the statists have in fact turned the Bill of Rights on it’s head by just ignoring the 9th and 10th amendments (just like they ignore the enumerated powers clause).

But I have to side with the Anti-Feds on these issues. Actually stating the proscriptions at least slows down the statists, especially for the politically popular proscriptions. So I’m all for “Right To Work” legislation that helps maintain the rights of free association even though it shouldn’t be needed.


19 posted on 12/15/2012 1:24:40 PM PST by RatSlayer
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To: DoughtyOne

The people who scream about the right to a job, holler and caterwaul at the mere statement of the right to work. How is that possible?


20 posted on 12/15/2012 2:42:04 PM PST by Warrior Nurse (Soldier, family ,conservative and proud because that is what America needs in order to thrive)
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To: Kaslin


21 posted on 12/15/2012 2:47:57 PM PST by Lancey Howard
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To: rockrr
Sorry Daniel but the "unjust form of intervention" occurred years ago when the government inserted itself on behalf of a 3rd party (the unions) and against not only the employer but the employee as well.

The fundamental problem is that the fe'ral government has decreed that if 51% of the current employees of a plant want to form a union, they can force their will not only on the other 49% of current workers, but also on the countless people who might decide to work there in future. While I agree that the proper remedy would be to say that employers should have the freedom to either negotiate whatever sort of contract they want with unions, or refuse to deal with unions and fire anyone who refuses to work on the employer's terms, the fe'ral government won't allow that. Since fe'ral rules don't allow an employer to decide whether to accede to union demands, restricting the demands unions can make is probably the best protection states can offer.

22 posted on 12/15/2012 4:42:48 PM PST by supercat (Renounce Covetousness.)
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