Why not worker-choice?

More EFCA stories: here • "Respected Democrat Rips EFCA"

Mandatory unionism is favored by politicians but not workers

You have probably seen bumper stickers reading "Im Pro-Choice and I Vote." We know the context: abortion. The person who placed the sticker wants us to know that she (or maybe he) does not want any governmental interference when it comes to a womanҒs decision on terminating a pregnancy.

If people who are "pro-choice" on abortion were philosophically consistent, you would expect them also to be "pro-choice" with regard to the matter of union representation. Many, however, are not.

Those thoughts are occasioned by a recent and rather surprising piece in the Wall Street Journal by former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern. He took issue with the virtually unanimous support in his party for a bill with an astoundingly misleading name: The Employee Free Choice Act. That legislation would require the federal government to certify a labor union as the bargaining agent of the workers based only on signed cards purportedly showing that a majority wants the union's representation.

McGovern deserves praise for taking a principled but unpopular stance. Other Democrats (and indeed all Americans) should rethink the nation's approach to labor relations law.

Our basic law regarding labor relations is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), passed during the depths of the Great Depression as a campaign favor to the unions for having helped elect FDR. It was and still is special-interest legislation par excellence.

The very worst feature of the NLRA is that it turned the question of union representation from one of individual choice into one of democracy. Prior to the NLRA, unions were no different from other voluntary organizations under the law. People were free to join or quit as they saw fit. After the act, once a majority voted -- in a secret-ballot election -- for union representation, all of the workers had to accept it whether they liked it or not.

That was bad enough, but the "democratization" of unionism had a peculiar aspect. In our political democracy, we get to choose periodically to keep or vote out of office those whom the voters have chosen to represent them. With workplace democracy, however, there are no regular elections in which the workers have the opportunity of dropping the incumbent union in favor of a different union or having no union at all.

Once a union has been certified, it remains in place until it is decertified. While it is possible to do that if enough workers are dissatisfied, the deck is stacked against the decertification process. In many unionized companies, the union has been in place so long that not one of the current employees has ever voted on it.

The "card check" procedure that McGovern rightly criticized would make union organizing much easier. Union zealots could pressure workers to get them to sign or deceive them as to what they were signing. Furthermore, a secret ballot protects the anonymity of each individual in the decision. With "card check," those who tell the union "No" could be making targets of themselves since unions have a long, nasty history of violence against people who go against them.

Any American who really favors freedom of choice Democrats, Republicans, independents, and those who are apolitical ֖ should want to see unions treated the same way under the law as are all other private organizations. People should be free to join them or contract for their services just as they are free to join clubs, churches, or civic groups or to contract with an Internet service provider or lawn care company. We dont insist that those decisions be made democratically, with people who donҒt like the majoritys preference compelled to go along with it. There is no reason why a decision on union representation should be made democratically, either.

The NLRA is one of the worst pieces of special-interest legislation ever passed. It's blatantly contrary to individual choice. So why do so few politicians (and almost no Democrats) want to repeal it? The answer is simple: money. Union officials give lots of it to politicians they like and spend like mad to defeat those who stand against them.

- George Leef is director of research for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. I too have argued against the idea that all will be unionized under the EFCA without being allowed to cast their vote in the secret ballot election.

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