The right to organize a union is a federally protected activity. It cannot be taken away. Right to work laws do not take it away. Right to work laws are the marketplace application of another federally protected activity, one explicitly articulated in the Constitution, namely the right to free association.
In this context, the right to free association means that you are free to join, or not to join, any legally constituted and legally operating organization you wish. If you want to join a union, you may. If you want to decline union membership, you may.
Unions are not happy with right to work laws because when workers are free to decline membership, they do. They do it in enormous numbers and in enormous percentages. That’s another way of saying that unions don’t like workplace freedom. If to thrive means to have more money for use in securing political clout and legislative advantage, then unions thrive best in an atmosphere of coercion. They get lots more money to buy politicians who will pass pro-union legislation if all workers are forced to join the union and pay their union dues. Make no mistake about it: It’s about money. It’s about clout. It’s about power.
Union advocates always say that right to work laws aren’t really about freedom, they’re about undermining unions. But by so arguing, those union advocates unwittingly confess that unions are not about freedom and that freedom itself undermines unions. They unwittingly confess that unions are about coercion. When workers get what they want, freedom expands. When unions get what they want, freedom shrinks. When workers get what they want, unions shrink. So, according to the unions’ own argument, the real question is this: Which do you want, freedom or unions? Pick one.
Let me make it clear: Right to work laws don’t undermine unions. Free workers undermine unions. Unions fear free workers. To the unions, the fewer free workers the better.
Unions want to turn the union hall into the hiring office. They want to wrest from the company the company’s right to hire the best workers and to fire the worst. They want to wrest from the worker the freedom to rise or fall as an individual, to succeed on the strength of one’s own merit and skill, to make or to decline one’s own deal or one’s own contract rather than to be a faceless, nameless, dues paying non-entity inside a tax-exempt, leftist, political front, whose money goes to support political parties, political candidates, and public policies the worker might actually despise.
The union’s worst nightmare is the competent, self-reliant, I-can-do-it-myself worker able to make his or her own way through the world on the basis of acquired skills and demonstrated acumen, someone who doesn’t need to hide in the collective or to band together with the herd just to get or keep a job, someone who knows that if a company is stupid enough not to hire the best workers at an honest wage that that company gives its opponents a huge advantage in the marketplace because the best workers will then go elsewhere. Smart companies know that the competitive edge belongs to companies with the best workers, not those with the most coercive unions.
When right to work states border closed-shop states, existing businesses migrate from the latter to the former. When start up businesses select a location, they make the same choice. For example, just a few months ago Indiana, which borders Michigan on the south, became a right to work state. Since then, almost 1/8 of the nation’s job growth went to Indiana, even though it has only 1/50 of the nation’s population. During that same period, Michigan, then a closed shop state, lost jobs, just as it has done for years. Right to work means more jobs. More jobs mean more workers. More workers mean more taxpayers. More taxpayers mean more revenue for the state. In other words, freedom pays.
Unions don’t get it. They think that they can bully their way to prosperity. They bully their way to unemployment. They drive away jobs. By their bullying and their greed, they create a hostile environment for investment and job creation. Despite their lumpish and loutish bluster, unions cannot suspend the laws of economics at will. No one can.
Unions think (or at least argue) that the real issue is checking corporate greed. They never think that there needs to be a check on union greed as well.
Freedom is that check.