Speaking Out for Individual Workers’ Right to Choose, Free from Coercion

For the second time in the span of a week, I have been quoted in the Rocky Mountain News. Quite astonishing, really, except for the fact that the writers of these stories on all the political battles over right-to-work and other initiatives must be glad to find a different voice than the standard pro-business and pro-labor mouthpieces. I was glad to be able to give a pro-liberty view to the article:

“The Labor Peace Act is unique and offers some protection, but it doesn’t offer complete protection,” said Benjamin DeGrow, an analyst at the Independence Institute. “Anything that best protects the individual worker’s right to decide what they want is the right sort of policy.”

Instead of addressing the argument in the story, the other side attacked the motives of those supporting individual workers’ rights:

The “freedom-of-choice” argument promoted by the “right-to- work” advocates falls flat with some longtime labor observers. “The folks who want ‘right-to- work’ understand it just simply undermines the ability for unions to finance what they do,” said Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan Labor Studies Center. “It’s not about giving people the right to choose.”

Professor Zullo certainly is skilled at reading minds and divining motivations.

Zullo noted that workers in the states without “right-to-work” laws can opt not to pay the portion of fees that go toward political activities.

Technically, yes, as a pat answer. These are called “Beck rights” for workers in the private sector. But consider the following problems:
– Many workers are not aware of Beck rights
– Workers must resign union membership in order to exercise Beck rights
– Legal enforcement of Beck rights is weak, often proving costly and time-consuming
– Unions often work to resist the exercise of Beck rights (here’s just one example among many)

Obviously the good professor has never tried to file an objection to get a refund of union political expenses. A true concern for individual workers’ rights would be to let them decide not only their rights of association but also the right to fund freely organizations they support and to withhold funds freely from organizations they do not support.

I hope the professor does not believe that labor unions (or any other organizations) are justified in using any means, including coercion, to “finance what they do.”

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