By: Josh Lents
Living in Hendricks county; the most Republican county in Indiana according to Greg Lenz on the last We Are Libertarians podcast, I’m often witness to much banter about Republican ideals such as smaller government and liberty, but these conversations often involve misguided anti-liberty statements about erecting a giant wall on our border, bombing someone (for freedom no less), or supporting “right to work” legislation. I would like to address the last of these.
People often point out that no one should be forced to join a union because doing so is anti-freedom, and I think we can all agree on that. It would be a violation of the non-aggression principle (NAP) to force anyone to do anything against his or her will. This argument however is a misrepresentation of what the law actually does, and I would counter argue the law itself violates the NAP, instead of the other way around. Are individuals really being forced into unions against their will? It turns out “right to work” has little to do with the individual, and much to do with the private contract rights of employers and unions.
The law prevents unions and employers from signing a private contract to exclusively hire one particular union’s workers for a specific job. Under “right to work,” signing such a contract would be in violation of the law, subject to enforcement by government force. For example, the company I work for hires union workers for one particular job category but not for others. The job category is for a skilled labor position, in which the union trains and has a pool of hundreds of people with that skill set. It benefits my employer because the industry they are in can be a bit unstable at times and having access to a pool of hundreds of qualified workers at the drop of a hat gives them an advantage when bidding on big jobs in which they may need to fill dozens of skilled labor positions over night. It also benefits the employer because the wage and benefits are collectively bargained for ahead of time so they don’t have to negotiate with dozens of individual people separately. Paying dues is a condition of employment no different than any other condition an employer may impose. For instance, my wife works at a hospital and is required to purchase a specific set of scrubs with that hospitals logo on it. This is a condition of her employment, which is no different than being required to pay dues. If I didn’t want to pay dues or if my wife didn’t want to buy those scrubs, there are plenty of other employers that don’t require such things. We are not forced to work for those employers, and therefore, we are not forced to pay those dues, or purchase those scrubs, or accept any other condition of employment.
We may not always like our choices, but they are still ours to make. Taking away the right to exclusively contract ultimately cuts into the union’s power to collectively bargain because without that exclusive contract the union doesn’t have much to bargain. This is the ultimate goal, to break up the unions. Unions are actually a great example of liberty in action. A union is a group of individuals who voluntarily associate together for a common cause. Think of it like a representative government, except with the actual consent of 100% of everyone that is represented. Imagine if you will, the government passing a law which I will call “right to associate,” in which the government makes it illegal for your home owners association (HOA) to require you and your neighbor to pay dues, but still forces the HOA to provide services to you and your neighbors regardless of whether or not they pay dues. This is essentially what “right to work” is; a law of force, and there is no liberty in force.
Josh Lents is 29 years old, currently residing in Avon, Indiana, and graduated from Brownsburg High School. He became interested in the liberty movement during Ron Paul’s 2012 run for president. He also served time in the US Army, including a tour in the Iraq war. Josh is married with one child and another on the way.