There’s been a bit of discussion in one of our recent comment threads about so-called “right-to-work” laws (RTW). This is a topic we’ve discussed before here. And it’s one about which I still haven’t entirely made up my mind. It’s sometimes difficult to know what specific policies libertarian principles demand when those principles have been and continue to be violated on a regular basis. Libertarianism demands freedom of contract for all, not just for some. But what if freedom of contract for all isn’t a live option on the policy table?

In the most recent issue of The Freeman, our very own Gary Chartier weighs in on the issue with his essay “What’s Wrong with Right-to-Work.” Gary begins by noting, correctly, that RTW violates freedom of contract by preventing employers from entering into an with a union to form a “union shop.”

That might seem to settle the issue from a libertarian perspective, but defenders of RTW respond by pointing out that prior government policies like the National Labor Relations Act have already violated freedom of contract by requiring employers to bargain with unions that have the support of the majority of workers. So government has already thrown out freedom of contract in a way that benefits unions. RTW simply balances things out.

But according to Chartier, this story grossly misrepresents the actual history and political economy of the NLRA, which was actually supported by business interests:

Big businesses that supported the emergence of modern labor law liked the fact that it had the potential to keep unions tame and manageable, ensuring that they would operate within a predefined legal framework in order to enjoy legal privileges. (This is not to say that everything worked out exactly as the corporate elite would have liked.) It should be no surprise, then, that viewed as a package, existing labor law limits workers’ options. For instance, since bargaining is required only when a union enjoys majority support, a union that represents a significant fraction of employees—but not a majority—will tend to be treated as irrelevant.

Chartier’s solution?

To the extent that right-to-work laws might seem to make sense as mechanisms for dealing with union abuses, the solution is to eliminate the whole body of modern labor legislation. Unions have shown they don’t need it, even in the unfreed market we have today. And in a genuinely freed market, workers would find it significantly easier than they do at present to work for themselves, to say no to abusive work environments, and so to bargain effectively for appealing wages and working conditions and opportunities to direct their workplaces. They certainly wouldn’t need the NLRA.

Fair enough. But this isn’t much help if the only question on the ballot is: RTW, yes or no? The elimination of all labor laws and special privileges for both sides is a terrific ideal to aim at. But ideal theory is sometimes little help for solving problems in our very non-ideal world.

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  • Mark LeBar

    What we know about fans of the state is that they are always in favor of new state-imposed remedies to problems that previous interventions (morally and pragmatically unjustified) have caused. This is true whether the issue is bad labor law, or bad welfare policies (which allegedly require limits on people’s freedom to move and contract), or bad foreign policy (which allegedly requires violation of people’s fundamental rights in order to, uh, see that those rights are not violated by others). If libertarians get in the business of proposing that the state intervene to fix the problems of previous interventions, really they will become indistinguishable from the statists they allegedly oppose. Noxious as is the labor law which (so far as I can tell, Gary and others are right in claiming) is responsible for conditions that are both unjust and economically problematic, the right thing is, just as he suggest, to keep the focus on those problematic laws, rather than getting in the business of proposing new problematic laws. Either your principles mean something, or they don’t, it seems to me. Short term concessions to tyranny just produce … more tyranny.

  • martinbrock

    In a world thoroughly dominated by states, the virtue of repealing a particular law violating a particular liberty cannot be evaluated independently of other laws violating other liberties; however, neither the NLRA nor right to work laws seem particularly pro-labor to me. Repealing either one, independently of the other, seems pro-labor to me. I don’t mean “pro-established labor unions” here.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Matt,
    Somewhere in this country there may be an employer who actually freely desires to enter into a union shop agreement, as opposed to having it forced on them as a condition of labor peace. If this desire were widespread, we would expect to see a substantial migration of businesses to states that have “agency shop” laws (which permit this arrangement) and away from RTW states, which don’t. Instead, we see a massive movement of corporations to RTW states and away from “agency shop” states. If you read the news, you will see that many companies are “on-shoring” jobs from China and elsewhere, but they are locating in the Heart of Dixie, baby, not Michigan.

    Also, why should we care at all about unions, as opposed to caring about the interests of workers? You don’t think the interests of these two groups always coincide, do you? In fact, I would arge that these interests are often in direct conflict.

    • Adrian Ratnapala

      as opposed to having it forced on them as a condition of labor peace. 
      But this “forcing” is done by people exercising their economic choice (to go on strike or not).  Being a capitalist running-dog, I am sceptical about such claims of force.   In a perfectly free market, we wouldn’t have RTW laws.

      Actually I think I prefer a non-free market, with RTW laws as part of a grand bargain.  In a perfectly free market, employers would also be able to sack people for joining a union, or for going on strike.    In this field, the free markets hand both sides blunt instruments, and might result in an arms race where unions and employers would seek to crush each other before they were crushed.  The whole sorry story 19th century European story.  

      Let there be a right to strike, ban discrimination against unionists.  In return, prohibit on closed shops and on secondary boycotts.

      Also, why should we care at all about unions, as opposed to caring about the interests of workers?

      This is freedom of association.  Maybe not in a the exact sense that is protected by the 1st Amendment, but at least in a practical sense.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Adrian,
        To be clear: I do not oppose collective bargaining. My point was simply that employers were not really being deprived of the opportunity to enter into union shop deals. They are, as you say, negotiated into them, rather than being something that they affirmatively desire. Also, I do not oppose the formation of unions, just laws that require employers to bargain exclusively with them if they get 51% support from workers and laws that require unwilling employees to pay dues to unions in order to work.  My ideal solution is the abolition of all labor laws–let the chips fall where they may.

  • Silly Wabbit

    Even in union shops there are ways for workers to get around union membership-specifically the Beck Law. 

    The literature on the effect of right to work on job creation or economic growth paints a very nuanced and complex picture. Putting aside the moral or philosophical arguments for or against its very difficult to make the case the RTW laws are consistently better for workers (of course, the definition of “workers” could vary quite substantially). Even when statistically significant effects are found the coefficient is often small. 

    But to me that’s not a very libertarian argument. In other words, I’m not sure that policies that catalyze job growth are automatically libertarian. 

    I don’t know if there can ever be a consensus in the libertarian ideoscape around this issue. Gary’s work highlights some of the challenges of applying abstract principles to social complexity (informed by history) and for that I applaud him and Matt. 

    • Dshapiro

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but was the Beck decision ever enforced?

  • j_m_h

    Seems to me that this discussion is ignoring an evolution in the labor markets which is something of a hi-brid type solution: Contract workforce.  I realize there are numerous approaches here.

    Unions seek to represent the worker in terms of wages and benefits while leaving the worker the employee of the company. The contract case has a person employed by company A, who takes on the provisioning of benefits and wages. Company B then pays company A for labor services.

    Not too much different than the labor case but institutionally it offers some benefits in my mind. Primarily under the union model pricing is not market driven. Under the alternative much clearly prices exists which should make economic decisions and movement towards economic efficiency easer to accomplish.

    • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

       Yeah, this is what kind of bugs me: Manpower, Inc. can negotiate fixed labor rates with an employer without so much as a squeak.  For some reason labor unions can’t.

      Everybody worries about the additional costs unions impose?  Labor service firms like Manpower tack on anywhere from maybe 15% to 35%.

      Labor unions should just reincorporate as labor services.  Extra added bonus?  If they’re corporations instead of unions they can take advantage of all the lobbying loopholes and business carveouts Congress, the courts, and of course Conservatives have created for the other side.

      figleaf

      • DavidCheatham

        That’s the point I keep making.

        Everyone else seems to have the right to negotiate exclusive contracts with corporations. Why not unions?

      • ethel

        In my experience contract agencies add more like 100% (i.e., the cost to the employer is about double what the contractor gets).

        • SheetWise

           You’re right that the cost to the employer goes up — drastically on short term employment, and substantially even on long term employment.  The advantage to the employer is that they get what they bargained for, a worker.  Employees they would eventually have to adopt.

    • SheetWise

      You have to look at why employers are using employment services.  One company I  was programming for in the early 90′s (high tech, military, government contracts) was sued for age discrimination and the court awarded the employees over $50M.  The suit was bogus — they were replacing people who did not have and could not adapt to the computer skills they needed, and those people were disproportionately older.  I still do some contracting with them as an independent, but from the time of that suit, almost 20 years ago, _every_ employee they have is hired from an agency — and the premium they pay is nearly 40% (that does not go to the worker).  They’re able to pass those costs along, unlike most employers.  What they can’t risk is some court awarding another judgment that they could not have foreseen and was not included in their costs.  Does anybody else see the irony here?

      • j_m_h

        I think a number of factors play into the emergence of staffing companies that are providing more that temporary workforce solutions.

        I don’t think contract workers fully protect the company from legal suits, Microsoft ran into that problem back in the 90s or early 00s.

        Still I think it raises questions about just what any corporation’s competencies are; is one of the core competencies that al corporations should have hiring or establishing compensation policies? Those are certainly critical aspect for success but it’s not clear to me that having those functions internalized allows for a good market setting for price discovery. It’s possible that the emergence of more contract model for staffing will produce a more robust labor market — which is not something RTW or Unions accomplish.

        I don’t think we’ll see a shift from internalized hiring to a full market purchase across the board. There are also aspect that we might not find so attractive — in some cases the worker is not getting any, or very minimal, benefits compared to what the jobs in the “hiring” corporations enjoy. There’s also the potential for what is called successive monopolies, in which case taking the exchange off the market can result in a better outcome for all.

  • SheetWise

    Employees always have, and always will have the right to organize and bargain as a group with an employer — it’s employers who have lost the right to say, go to hell.

    Somewhere along the path of “leveling the playing field” the right to bargain became synonymous with the right to win.  In the process, the current law heavily tilts the playing field in favor of the unions by forcing management to deal with them even after they have concluded that it would be in their best interest to replace the labor force.  Management does not come to conclusions like this lightly — and almost never when the workers actually represent skills that are dear in the market.

  • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

    “in a genuinely freed market, workers would find it significantly easier than they do at present to work for themselves, to say no to abusive work environments, and so to bargain effectively for appealing wages and working conditions and opportunities to direct their workplaces. They certainly wouldn’t need the NLRA.”

    Well you’ve convinced me, Matt! Because no doubt about it, hour for hour and requirement for requirement, Walmart workers have the most appealing wages and working conditions of anyone in the entire domestic workforce!  And hour for hour and task for task every employee in a “right to work” state has higher wages, benefits, and working conditions than comparable employees in yukky old non RTW states. Wow, there are so many benefits of the freedom not to join unions it’s hard to count them all!

    figleaf

    • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

       Just to be clear, Matt, I’m not implying you oppose unions per se.  Just pointing out that where employers have disproportionate wealth, organization, and systematization the vast majority of their employees have approximately zero leverage in negotiation power.  — In Walmart’s case they’re so large they’re able to exert economic
      influence over business, government, and even charities such as
      hospitals in local service.  Individual employees have about as much negotiating leeway as chickens do at Tyson Foods.

      Similarly, Walmart employees in right-to-work states receive no better compensation than do employees in right-to-organize states.  This is perhaps because, libertarian fantasies about Howard Roark and John Galt not withstanding, the main “benefit” in right-to-work states is the right to take or leave whatever your employer tells you they’re going to pay and to work on whatever terms and in whatever environment they chose to impose.

      I agree passionately with the BHL position that as with RTW laws and of course the original NLRB the bulk of government action and regulation benefits the 1% rather than the 99%.  The most obvious example of government taking sides would be President Grover Cleveland using the National Guard to break up the Pullman strike instead of, oh, say, telling his close political allies at the Pullman company to stop deliberately putting Pullman cars on trains carrying U.S. mail.  When the President of the United States, not to mention Congress, not to mention the courts gets involved both affirmatively (as in directly intervening against employees who want to unionize) and passively (as in refusing to investigate, prosecute, or jail strike breakers no matter how egregiously violent) it kind of makes liars out of the people who say the law favors unions.

      So, like a good BHL, I agree with you that it would be better to subtract labor laws, including so-called “right to work” laws, rather than add new ones.

      figleaf

  • j_m_h

    Seems a bit hyperbolic to suggest that low skill jobs are suitable cases to represent jobs in general in the USA. A retail cashier and stocking staff is really a job that’s suitable for people with  less than high school level knowledge.

    That adults who are responsible for a household find themselves competing with kids for this type of job is a problem but I don’t think we want to suggest that just any job needs to support the average household at a standard above poverty level. That’s not the solution to the problem.

    • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

       “Seems a bit hyperbolic to suggest that low skill jobs are suitable cases
      to represent jobs in general in the USA. A retail cashier and stocking
      staff is really a job that’s suitable for people with  less than high
      school level knowledge.”

      Yeah, only 43% of the adult population has only a high-school education or less.  So yeah, not very representative at all.

      Oh wait!

      figleaf

      • j_m_h

        Are you seriously suggesting that 43% of the population has turned their brain off or is incapable of additional learning?

        My point was that most of the WalMart jobs are minimal skill jobs. I suspect anyone who’s been working for for a few years and has been taking care of themselves, much less others, will be over qualified for such jobs. The fact that they do or do not have high school degrees says little about what shills they actually have.

        For instance, I suspect a lot of those 43% are doing things like pouring concrete, laying bricks, roofing, carpentry, basic plumbing and electricity, mechanics, machinists, a number will no doubt be working in IT, some will be doing basic bookkeeping, others will be performing scheduling tasks (logistics?), and other will have moved into various supervisory positions in their area of work.

        So yes, to suggest that 43% of the population is only suited to work at these low skill positions offered by Walmart (cashier, stock clerks, housekeeping/cleaning, warehouse labor) — which I suspect is the majority of the work force for a company like Walmart — seems to be a bit of hyperbole to me; or simply an arrogant, elitist opinion of the average Joe or Jane.

        • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

           I’m terribly sorry if I have misread you.  You said clerking and cashiering were suitable only for those with no more than high-school educations.  I said 43% of the adult population has no more than a high-school education.  You said all minimum-wage jobs are low-skill and therefore not representative of jobs overall.  What I didn’t say but perhaps should have is that if you think being a cook at Wendys, a barista at Starbucks, or a retail or stock clerk at Walmart of Home/Office Depot is low-skill give it a try some time and see how easy it is to get the hang of it.  For that matter see how long it takes to master scavenging aluminum cans? (I ask because that was the go-to answer middle-class people always used to tell me I should do because that’s what they were sure they could make a go of if they lost their jobs back in the 1970s and early 1980s.)

          I was a high-school dropout from ages 18 through 27.  And even then I never consistently made more than 30 cents an hour above minimum wage till I graduated college at age 31 so I had plenty of time to get used to what that means.  (I would say “way too much time” except, of course, that really would be elitist.)

          One concession: I do agree that only 15% or so of the population is what you’d call “working poor,” meaning working at least one or more part-time jobs but still below the official poverty line.

          figleaf

          • j_m_h

            I have a pretty checkered past as well. I do agree that being good at anything requires one master the relevant skills.  At the same time there are clearly entry level type jobs that don’t require much in the way of skill — the primary one beyond basic functional literacy is a minimum level of dependability. 

            Most of the jobs offer by walmart are those types of entry level skills — the greater, stocking shelves, warehouse unpacking of shipments, and even cashier; though cashier is arguable one step up given it’s a cash handling role (though I think there are cameras monitoring the open registers).  (Well, that was a poorly crafted sentence!)

            If you original intent was to indicate that 43% of the adult population only had such entry level skills I call BS. If you were pointing out the 43% of the population had HS education or less in terms of formal education that’s beside the point I was making.

            At this point I think we ended up talking past one another.

    • http://www.facebook.com/burleywu Ed Burley

      are you aware that when non-BHLs (and some BHLs it seems) and Conservatives bitch and moan about unemployment compensation, and Republican Governors (like Snyder in Michigan) cut the amount of time one can collect UC, people have to take the only jobs they can find? That would be, in most cases, Walmart and its ilk. I personally know two people who work or worked for Walmart. They were told – after requesting time off (and being told they would get it) and then were scheduled for that time they asked off – “well, if you can find someone to work for you on that day, you can have it off…” When they objected to Walmart’s “suggestion,” my friends were told that if they didn’t show up for work as scheduled, they would be fired. The one friend still works there, the other chose the old “you can’t fire me, I quit” route.

      Walmart is an abusive piece of shit corporation who comes into communities promising jobs (so that politicians can get out of paying unemployment), which usually only amount to part-time minimum wage jobs, in order to get tax breaks that other existing businesses don’t get. They then undercut the price (because, after all, they are a multi-billion dollar company who can undercut anyone with all of their Chinese-made products on the shelves) so that the previously existing businesses in the area can no longer compete (especially since they have to pay taxes, which Walmart is exempt from). The minute some know-it-all progressive takes over the local government and starts talking about raising taxes on Walmart; the Arkansas-based company cuts their losses, closes their doors and leaves a big huge monstrosity sitting on the commercial real estate market and a bunch of formerly part-time employees who don’t qualify for unemployment compensation…Free Market Capitalism is a beautiful thing, ain’t it?

      Classic Liberals, who were ALL BHLs, knew that this kind of piracy had little to nothing to do with “free labor markets” or “free enterprise,” but rather Corporate Socialism, which libertarians didn’t back until the Koch brothers began funding Cato. Now, many new libertarians  (as I once did) just believe that Cato brand libertarianism (CBL) is “our grandfather’s libertarianism” – and it ain’t. And if CBL is the libertarianism of the future, then I want nothing to do with it. I’ll find a party that actually gives a shit about people, rather than corporations…

      • j_m_h

        That adults who are responsible for a household find themselves competing with kids for this type of job is a problem but I don’t think we want to suggest that just any job needs to support the average household at a standard above poverty level. That’s not the solution to the problem.

        Quoting myself above. Does is sound like I’m ignoring that problem or sweeping it under the rug?

        There is a flip side here. Why should someone get a break because they’ve become unemployed, and in a number of cases were well compensated, with extended unemployment benefits so they can “seek employment” as if it were a full time job when those at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder must work, try to gain additional skills and educations, often take care of children, AND they look for a better job. If we can require this group of people to do so the I really don’t have any problem with telling someone who lost their job to take any employment they can find while looking for a better job–after all these people should have a little saving and if they’re middle class they should have more; if they are executive management they shouldn’t need any support at all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/burleywu Ed Burley

          A couple of things – first of all, I never attacked you; I was merely responding to the overall assumption here that creating minimum wage jobs is a desirable thing. Sorry if I misread your earlier comments – seems I’m not the only one either.

          In regards to your comment about unemployment. Perhaps you’d have understood my comment if you had spent sufficient time on the unemployment line. I am a Masters Level child welfare specialist. I was laid off from the agency I worked for for nearly 5 years due to that agency losing a significant number of their referrals from the local Department of Human Services. I looked for work in the immediate area and found none for 7 months. I applied for minimum wage jobs, figuring that getting back into the workforce was more important. They wouldn’t hire me because of my graduate degree – assuming that I would quickly quit their company the minute I got a “better paying job” in my field. I guess they missed that my Bachelors was in Business…

          I finally found a job over an hour from my home at nearly $9,000 a year less. I had to take it because my unemployment (which was half my salary – and paid by my former employer) would have run out in just a few months. Further reduction in my pay was due to paying nearly $5,000 a year or more in automobile costs (gas, oil changes, tires…). But I took the job.

          So, it bugs me when certain individuals like to make the claim that those of us on unemployment are just sitting around loving the “free money” that was taken out of my salary (more correctly, not included in my salary) and sitting on my ass getting “welfare.” I’m grateful for the “safety net” that we have in this country…

          • j_m_h

            Ed I do hear what you’re saying and I have actually taken unemployment benefits at one point in my life. There were others where I could have applied but choose not to.  In one of those I took a job for about half of what I was getting previously — going from about 60K to under 30K (and this was in the DC area where median income was a little over 60K).

            The extent to which I think others that know nothing about me should be on the hook for supporting me is an open question.I do think the way we go about providing this type of social safety net is bad for a number of reason. One of which I’ve already mentioned — it’s really a slap in the face to those at the bottom of the ladder. Perhaps if we have a blog about improvements to socially provided welfare and unemployment insurance benefits I’ll expand on other aspect.Personally I’m not that worried about free-riders who decide that living a life of poverty off the public dole as it were. Most want more and will, when opportunities are available, make the move employed rather than unemployed. How we go about implementing such systems is more important to me.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        You say, “so that the previously existing businesses in the area can no longer compete (especially since they have to pay taxes, which Walmart is exempt from).”  Citation please. Where I live, Wal-Mart pays local taxes, which is why the authorities let them expand to a Super-Walmart.

  • DavidCheatham

    But according to Chartier, this story grossly misrepresents the actual history and political economy of the NLRA, which was actually supported by business interests:
    Indeed. Corporations were losing the anti-union fight, badly. People currently don’t understand how much chaos it was, and how much corporations started losing once their ‘Beat the employees until they returned to work’ previous policy became untenable.

    The entire point of the NLRA is to focus union activity into a single point. One that is fairly hard to reach, and if it is reached, then given a single point to deal with.

    Pretty much _every_ ‘union law’ is basically an anti-union law. Hell, even the ‘cannot fire people for trying to organize a union’, which sounds very pro-union, is not really, because companies do it anyway, and the major benefit is to not make martyrs out of people who are now unconstrained by any sort of threat to their employment.

    It is entirely possible that corporations have so forgotten why this entire setup exists that they’re willing to go along with my deal: Repeal all union laws. All of them. Every single one.

    Which would be absolutely completely fucking hilarious.

    Watch as ten employees at a random gas station or whatever decide to go on strike. And as the employees who drive the trucks to stock the place go on sympathy strikes. Watch scab workers hired do slowdowns. And damage equipment.

    All without ‘formally’ striking or having a ‘formally’ recognize union. Just ‘Pay us better or else we don’t do our job and you have to track down each of us and fire us.’.

    And then, after dealing with that, watch people who disagree with their union negotiated deal leave and make a _new_ union! Weeee! Watch unions fight over which can be the most hardline. Watch the competing unions sympathy strike!

    Do you have five people with the skill of ‘understanding the computers’ spread across the company? Watch them make their own, tiny, union!

    Corporations appear to have forgotten what, exactly, union laws are stopping, what the alternatives to the system were, and how without union laws, they had to resort to month-long shutdown (Which looks a fuckload worse in the days of public companies and stock prices.) and hiring people to beat strikers! (Which, uh, you can’t do anymore thanks to cellphone cameras.)

    This isn’t to say it would be all fun and games for the employees, either, but the point of current union law is to put all the discontent in one place, at which point it can be dealt with by ignoring it because it doesn’t reach 51%, or, in a worse case scenario it passes and you have a single union to deal with.

    Anyone who thinks that union laws are providing some sort of ‘balance’ that ‘right-to-work’ laws need to counter is living in some sort of anti-worker fantasy. Almost no union law is intended to provide any benefits to _actual_ workers, and the ones that do are easy enough to work around. Libertarians should be against them all, period. (And since right-to-work is the current removal of rights, they should be specifically against that.)

    • SheetWise

      I’m suspicious of those on this forum who see RTW as a counter to current labor law, and oppose it as an intrusion.  RTW can stand on its own — without any consideration of current labor law — and it doesn’t “remove” any rights, it simply restates a right which should never be interfered with.

      • DavidCheatham

         I don’t understand what you are talking about.

        RTW removes the right to make a certain sort of contract negotiation.

        • SheetWise

           RTW does not prevent negotiation or agreement — it may however, prevent legal enforcement.  Contracts address only a small number of events that can go wrong in business agreements — agreements are, for the most part, based upon trust.  Nobody wants to hire attorneys, or go to court — and there’s no way a contract can (or should) address all possible ways that relationships can go sour.  Contract enforcement, when necessary, allows an aggrieved party to mitigate losses resulting from the bad behavior of a counterparty — it is not meant to address all bad behavior.  There are non-legal remedies available to businesspeople when they discover that they are dealing with people who don’t keep their word — usually they walk away.  People write contract agreements that can’t be enforced every day.

        • SheetWise

           Unless, of course, you’re assuming that because a person has a right to
          work that also have a right to be employed.  But that’s just plain
          silly.

        • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

          Right, in a RTW states employers cannot agree to an agency shop arrangement where workers must pay union dues as a condition of employment. But employers can agree to such an arrangement in non-RTW states. So, if employers actually wanted such a deal, they could move from a RTW state to an “agency shop” state, right? But you will get run over by the traffic going in the other direction, i.e. migrating to RTW states.

          My point is that RTW laws don’t actually prevent employers from doing what they actually would like to do, i.e. there is no violation of their rights. Rather, employers agree to agency shop arrangements in non-RTW states as a means of obtaining labor peace. On the other hand, states with agency shop laws plainly violate the rights of every worker at that job site who would prefer to work w/o paying union dues. And, when this compulsion is withdrawn, as recently in Indiana, a substantial percentage of workers stop paying dues.

          BTW, I am with you in abolishing all labor laws, but the results would be very different from your fantasy. Workers would receive market rates for their labor, which would mean more jobs overall, but substantially fewer union jobs. There are, by the way, no labor unions in China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc.

          • DavidCheatham

             On the other hand, states with agency shop laws plainly violate the rights of everyworker at that job site who would prefer to work w/o paying union dues. And, when this compulsion is withdrawn, as recently in Indiana, a substantial percentage of workers stop paying dues.
            Worker do not have the ‘right’ to do whatever they want in their agreement with their employer, and it is astonishing how this right only show sup when unions are involved.
            Do workers have the right to not have some of their pay taken to build and maintain a parking lot they don’t use? Do they have the right to not buy a required uniform?
            What right, exactly, do you think workers have with regard to dictating what they can and cannot be required, by their company, to pay for?
            I really love this idea that workers somehow have the ‘right’ to be hired despite a contract the company has signed barring them from being hired unless they do things. Tell me, does this apply to other things? If I sign a contract with a limo company that everyone who they send over to drive to my people around will be insured, do people have the right to be hired by them if they _aren’t_ insured?
            My point is that RTW laws don’t actually prevent employers from doing what they actually would like to do, i.e. there is no violation of their rights. 
            Of course, even in RTW states, companies can make workers sign exclusivity contracts. It’s just that workers can’t make companies do the same.
            But I’m sure you’re all over that, right? In RTW states, you’re against non-compete agreements, right? I mean, in your universe, you’re calling them ‘right-to-hire’ agreements and arguing that Company A can’t bar Company B from hiring a specific person without their permission, right? Because that’s almost exactly how union shops work, in reverse.
            There are, by the way, no labor unions in China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc. 
            Because unions are illegal there, you lackwit.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I am sorry that you are unable to distinguish between terms (which you might consider unfair) that are imposed by an employer as a condition of employment, and those coercive laws imposed by the state. If an employer requires an employee to buy a uniform as a condition of employment, then the worker has to consider this fact within the context of the overall compensation package. If he/she thinks it is a bad deal, he/she can look for employment with better compensation at one of the other many millions of  businesses that exist in this country. Or, start their own business to compete against the company making unreasonable demands–what a concept. This is simply the market at work. The more skills an employee has, and the more these skills are in demand, the better his/her bargaining position relative to the employer.

            On the other hand, when a state requires by law a worker to pay union dues in order to work, the state is interfering in the market, plainly taking the side of a certain constituency (unions) against workers who would like to work w/o paying union dues.  At the federal level, the law also sides with unions by requiring employers to negotiate exclusively with the union once they reach the 51% support level–the wishes of the other 49% to bargain for themselves be damned.

            As to you last point. I cited the mobility of capital to refute your fantasy about how great it would be for unions if all labor laws were nullified. You reply in a way that proves my point–even more jobs will off-shore to places where unions are illegal. Next time, you might want to think a little more about what position you are actually arguing for, before resorting to name calling. At this point, I don’t think any further discussion between us will be productive.

          • DavidCheatham

            Erm, are you being sarcastic? You do know that in no place whatsoever does  the _state_ require you to join a union to do anything.

            The _company_ requires you to pay union dues in order to work there, exactly like it WalMart requires people to buy a blue shirt, or that Papa John’s requires all their drivers to have a car and car insurance.

            At the federal level, the law also sides with unions by requiring employers to negotiate exclusively with the union once they reach the 51% support level–the wishes of the other 49% to bargain for themselves be damned.

            I love the idea that this is somehow good for unions.In actual fact, of course, what the 51% threshhold means is that only 50% are not legally allowed to strike, which is what did in the past, and would, happen. Or just 10%.

            Likewise, it does indeed means that the 49% can’t negotiate for better wages, but you are apparently delusional and think this is due to the unions wanted that to stop, when in actuality it’s because the _corporations_ wanted that to stop.

            You’ll notice that even RTW states that the 49% of the worker’s you’re so worried about _have no right to form another union_, so can’t negotiate for better wages _anyway_.

            The entire point of the 51% is to make unions less likely to exist, _and_ to make sure that, if they do, at least there’s only one of them.

            Anyone who thinks _any part_ of labor law is pro-union is, to put it bluntly, an idiot.

          • SheetWise

             “Anyone who thinks _any part_ of labor law is pro-union is, to put it bluntly, an idiot.”

            If we we can keep the feds out of these issues, and encourage diversity among the states — we can watch and see where all the idiots go.

  • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

    ooops, misplaced reply.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Matt,
    Let me make my point in a different way. Imagine we live in a land w/o labor laws of any sort. In this country there is an employer with 100 employees: 90 of them are devoutly religious, and belong to a particular church, while 10 are outspoken atheists. The majority is POed at the minority and wants them to join their church and to tithe. So, they go to the employer and threaten to strike, do half-hearted work, or otherwise damage the employer’s business unless the company makes it a condition of employment there that all workers join the church and tithe. Assuming the employer’s sole concern is profit maximization, it might well agree. Seeing this possibility, the state passes a law making it illegal for the employer to agree to this demand. Is this law imoral?

    Well maybe under libertarian principles it is, but only because in a land w/o labor laws, upon getting the first whiff of such a threat, the employer could immediately fire the 90 w/o legal penalty or obstacle. The employer could then go to each fired employee and say “you can have your old job back, but only on the condition that you never join with others for purposes of making that threat again.” Alternatively, the employer could immediately go to outsiders (non-employees) who are tolerant of atheists, and offer them jobs.  Obviously, in my analogy the union is the “church.”

    In non-RTW states these alternatives are not available to the employer because the union is designated as the exclusive bargaining agent once it gets 51% of support from the work force. And, assuming a unionized workplace, the employer cannot immediately fire anyone, but must engage in “good faith” bargaining in any dispute, which can take many months. Also, if the NLRB is politically motivated, as it is today, it can jump in and sue the employer for “bad faith” as it did to Boeing when it dared to move a plant to S. Carolina. This is why RTW laws make sense even under libertarian principles.

    Of course, we might feel differently if there were employers who sincerely did wish to employ only those people who belonged to a particular church (or the union), and the law prevented them from doing so. But anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes in the real world working on the management side of a business, knows this possibility is only theoretical.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    • DavidCheatham

      And what if those 90% of employees wanted to grind up the remaining 10% and eat them in hamburgers!
      And what if the management wanted to fire all non-Christians! Oh, wait, you handwaved that for no reason. 

      Labor laws have nothing to do with what you are suggesting, at all. You invented a situation where the union wishes the company to do something _that should be illegal in general_.

      Whereas companies negotiating exclusivity contracts is not illegal in general, and if you think it should be you should probably stop worrying about unions and deal with the literally billions of contracts that have been negotiated thusly between corporations. Go down to your state congress and _demand_ that McDonalds not be allowed to negotiate an exclusive deal to sell Coke products, because Pepsi has a ‘right to sell Pepsi in McDonalds’.

      And while you’re at it, do something about those all those non-competes, which are exclusivity deals between workers and corporations, exactly like you seem to care about…of course, in that case, it’s the other way around, where it’s the workers being restricted, instead of the corporations.

      And perhaps you’d care to explain how being required to own a car and have insurance for it, at your own expense, is legitimate for Papa John (Which is probably a requirement imposed by Papa John’s insurance company), but not for it to require that people pay union dues (imposed by a hypothetical union)?

      You claim that corporations have no right to impose restrictions on workers. That there are certain things that corporations cannot require of workers, like having them pay small amounts of money to others. Like the corporations that require people to buy their own uniform, or corporations that require third-party certifications, or corporations that require people to be in certain places at certain times but do not provide transportation expenses. (Oh, wait, do those not count, either?)

      I _really_ want to see that argument made by the right. I want people on the right to stand there, bare-assed, and make the fucking argument that corporations cannot require specific things from people they employ. I really, really, really, really want to see that.

      The only reason that ‘union dues’ are somehow different than all that other stuff is…shut up, that’s why.

  • SheetWise
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