Red-Blue America: Should union organizing be a civil right?
Labor organizers seek right to coerce membership — whether wanted or not
Obviously union organizing is a First Amendment right. We can argue whether public-sector workers should be unionized, but nobody today disputes that private-sector employees have a right to form or join a labor union.
Freedom of assembly should be free. Shouldn’t that be indisputable, too?
Unions aren’t especially interested in workers freely choosing to join their ranks and pay dues. With membership dwindling and the legal tide turning, they need government protection to remain viable. The “civil right” labor organizers seek is really a new right to coerce workers into membership whether they want it or not.
It’s not as though unions don’t have extensive legal rights and protections right now. The National Labor Relations Act effectively enshrined the right to collective bargaining 79 years ago. Subsequent laws exempted unions from most trespassing and anti-
monopoly laws, as well as whistleblower protections.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 Enmons decision even carved out a union exception from federal racketeering and extortion laws. Incredibly, five justices endorsed the view that economic gain through violence is permissible when unions seek “legitimate” objectives. Thousands of acts of union thuggery, intimidation and assault have gone unpunished as a result.
Liberals appear happy to endorse the principle of freedom of association until it runs afoul of their more beloved shibboleths. Then a corporation such as Hobby Lobby — for which exactly no one is compelled to work — becomes Public Enemy No. 1. Then a court decision like Citizens United — which, contrary to President Barack Obama, did not undo “a century of law” — becomes the worst assault on American democracy since Dred Scott.
Truth is, labor unions are failing the basic test of survival in the marketplace of ideas. Workers are no longer buying what Big Labor is selling.
Freedom of workers to organize? More like freedom of unions to extract more dues. This isn’t about civil rights — it’s a license to commit extortion.
Ben Boychuk (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.