My dad and I have come out against Amendment 47, the so-called “right to work” measure. So has Diana Hsieh. This has generated some discussion regarding the merits of the proposal, so here I further detail my case against it.
The problem with Amendment 47 is that it interferes with the freedom of contract. That this interferes with the employee’s “freedom to choose” is irrelevant. For instance, an employee does not have the “freedom to choose” to gab on the phone with friends while at work, create a painting when the job requires customer service, etc. Beyond the context of individual rights, the “freedom to choose” is either meaningless or in direct violation of individual rights. For example, you do not have the “freedom to choose” not to pay your mortgage and remain in your house. You do not have the “freedom to choose” to walk out of a grocery store without paying for your food. You do not have the “freedom to choose” to unilaterally force an employer to offer a contract that he does not want to offer. At least, within the bounds of individual rights you have no such freedom.
Is it true that, due to federal controls, unions have the ability to force contractual concessions that they would not be able to achieve on a free market in which the individual rights of both employer and employee are fully protected? Yes, that is true. But two wrongs do not make a right. One violation of contract rights does not call for another. The undue power granted to unions by federal legislation should be repealed. The answer is not to impose new contractual restraints by state force.
Now let us take a look at the actual constitutional language that Amendment 47 would impose:
(2) (a) No person shall, as a condition of employment, be required to: (I) Be a member of a labor union; and (II) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind to a labor union or to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments. … (3) Any person who directly or indirectly violates any provision of this section commits a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine in an amount equivalent to the most stringent misdemeanor classification provided by law.
Whom is the criminal penalty directed toward? The employer. How exactly is threatening employers with criminal sanctions protecting their rights to contract?
An argument against the measure in the Blue Book aptly summarizes another problem: “By defining labor union to include organizations that provide mutual aid or protection, employers may be banned from requiring employees to belong to organizations that promote workplace safety or provide job-related education programs.”
Indeed, the language is so broad — “any charity or other third party” — than an employer would not be able to require funding of any civic group as a requirement of employment. Now, I do not think employers should be in the business of requiring civic participation, but I think they have every right to do so, as a matter of contract.
Employers also have the right to create a union shop. Does this interfere with the employee’s “freedom of choice?” No; they retain the freedom to work elsewhere. Contracts are a two-way street, and the rights of both parties must be protected, by the principle of individual rights.