‘A Classical Liberal Is Justified in Supporting’ Right to Work Laws

Stan Greer, Program Director for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, reflects on Dr. Charles Baird’s view of Right To Work Laws. Baird’s background both as a teacher and an economist, is extensive, and his treatment of the root of monopoly bargaining as the root of compulsory unionism, both in education and in other workplaces, is an excellent reference on the subject.

“The unions’ free rider argument amounts to saying that since Congress has violated individual workers’ freedom of association with exclusive representation, Congress must also override individual workers’ freedom of association in choice of whether or not to support unions that represent them.”

“. . . Baird is convinced that Right to Work laws are completely appropriate as a means of mitigating the harmful impact caused by government-authorized (and -promoted) “exclusive representation”:[Under] Section 9(a) of the NLRA, American unions are not voluntary organizations that represent only their voluntary members. If they are certified by majority vote among workers in a bargaining unit they become the exclusive (monopoly) bargaining agents of all such workers, whether individual workers agree or not.

Individuals are even forbidden to represent themselves. This is usually justified on grounds of “workplace democracy.” As Hayek wrote in 1949 (“The Intellectuals and Socialism”) this is an example of “making shibboleths out of abstractions.” The First Amendment forbids deciding which church to attend on the basis of a majority vote enforced by government. Likewise, the First Amendment’s principle of freedom of association forbids deciding which representative will represent all workers on the basis of a majority vote enforced by government. Democracy is a form of government. Government cannot rightly impose democracy on private decisionmaking. In the private sphere of human action, an individual’s associations should not be subject to majority vote. Exclusive representation should be repealed.

Professor Baird’s explanation of why teacher union officials will never give up the exclusive representation priveleges they have work so hard to pass in most states. A school district is just a negotiation away from full union power in many states.