Union Insanity

The following story from Fox offers just one example of the high cost of legalized union force:

Thousands of laid-off auto workers get paid $31 an hour to sit around and do nothing all year under a controversial program that could continue even if American taxpayers bail out the American auto industry.

The program, called “Jobs Banks,” has been around for 24 years… thanks to a deal struck in 1984 between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three carmakers. … But if the automakers go bankrupt, some analysts say, they may be able to eliminate the program, which would abruptly eliminate benefits to the workers in it. … Hoping to avoid bankruptcy and secure federal loans, carmakers and the UAW are considering eliminating the program anyway.

It is clear that wage controls, including legislation under Hoover and FDR granting unions legal uses of force, prevented wages from adjusting to deflation, kept unemployment high, and worsened the Great Depression. American businesses, consumers, and other workers continue to pay the price for these unjust laws.

Amendment 47 and the "Freedom of Choice"

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.

Gordon Explains CO Ballot Shakeup

State Senator Ken Gordon provides important news about this year’s ballot. I disagree with some of his analysis, but I’ll save those comments for another time.

I got my (now outdated) Blue Book in the mail a day or two ago; it’s also online.There are now 14, not 18, ballot measures. Following is Gordon’s message:

* * *

When something dramatic happens in Colorado politics, I like to send out a “Flash Update” so that people on my email list can be the first on their block to know.

I just walked over to the Capitol from the press conference where Governor Ritter and members of the labor and business community announced an agreement that affects seven of the ballot measure on this fall’s ballot. This qualifies as dramatic.

The genesis of the problem was a decision by a businessman to put Amendment 47 on the ballot. Amendment 47, called by its proponents “Right to Work,” makes it impossible for employees to vote for a union shop. This makes it very hard for unions to organize because every employee of a business gets the benefit of the unions’ collective bargaining whether or not they support the union. There is no incentive for an employee to pay union dues. “Right to Work” has been proposed numerous times in the legislature and has never passed. Employees earn less money in “Right to Work” states and have fewer benefits. The unions call it the “Right to Work for Less.”

In response, unions put Amendments 53, 55, 56 and 57 on the ballot. These measures created criminal responsibility for business executives, required an explanation for the termination of an employee, required businesses to give health care to all workers and created additional remedies for injured workers. Business felt that if these measures passed new businesses would avoid Colorado, and businesses already here would leave.

Negotiations around removing all of the measures have been going on for months. Most of the business community felt that the labor-business climate in Colorado was fine, and that they didn’t need “Right to Work,” so they tried to persuade its backers to remove it. They were unsuccessful.

The agreement announced today was that labor would withdraw Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57, and the mainstream business community will help labor oppose “Right to Work,” which is Amendment 47 and two other Amendments (49 and 54) which are problematic for labor. The Labor-Business combined message is “Oppose Amendments 47, 49 and 54.”

Governor Ritter helped broker this deal, and it seems that both the labor and mainstream business community acted like responsible adults. The proponents of Amendment 47 were excessively ideological and rigid, not acting in the best interests of Colorado.

This whole topic raises questions about the use of ballot measures and the relative ease for monied interests to get matters on the ballot. It is an argument for Ref O which makes it somewhat harder to get Constitutional Amendments on the ballot, but this is a topic for more discussion at a later date. I wanted to get this out quickly, so I will end now.

As always, don’t hesitate to write back with comments or questions, and feel free to forward or republish this email in any format.


Ken Gordon
Majority Leader
Colorado Senate