MINOT, N.D. — There is nothing wrong with labor organizations or the concept of collective bargaining. Labor unions can serve an important function amplifying the voices of workers, generally, and providing important benefits such as counsel and other protections to individual workers.
There is something deeply wrong with forcing Americans to be members of unions when they don't want to be.
The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which has already passed the U.S. House, would strip away the ability of millions upon millions of American workers to refuse to join a union.
Currently, 27 states have what's called right-to-work laws that prohibit labor unions from negotiating contracts that require employees to pay union dues to maintain employment. The PRO Act would preempt these laws, stating that “all employees in a bargaining unit shall contribute fees to a labor organization for the cost of representation, collective bargaining, contract enforcement, and related expenditures as a condition of employment shall be valid and enforceable notwithstanding any State or Territorial law.”
That line of legalese, should it become the law, would be a financial windfall for private-sector unions who have seen a decline in their membership nearly every year since 1983.
The unions and their lobbyists argue that forcing workers to pay dues addresses the so-called "free-rider" problem. Specifically, employees who work under a contract collectively bargained by a union they don't pay dues to.
The unions, not unreasonably, see this as unfair, but is it more unfair than forcing an American citizen to be a member of an organization they may not like?
The courts don't think so. "[A]voiding 'the risk of 'free riders' ... is not a compelling state interest," the Supreme Court ruled in Janus vs. AFSCME, an opinion that struck down mandates requiring government workers to pay union dues. "Free-rider 'arguments ... are generally insufficient to overcome First Amendment objections.'"
The PRO Act would violate American workers' speech and association rights; it would remove important protections for them in other ways too. It would shorten the election timeline for union organizing efforts in non-union workforces. Employers would be forced to turn over to the union the private information of all workers — addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, work schedules, etc. — even if those workers don't want that information shared.
Perhaps worst of all, the PRO Act would codify card-check elections instead of secret ballots, meaning how any given worker would vote on unionization would be a matter of public record.
Given the long history of abusive and even violent tactics deployed by labor unions in their quest to organize, why would anyone not beholden to the financial interests of Big Labor be comfortable with that?
If Big Labor wants to bolster its ranks again, it shouldn't use force and intimidation. It should offer workers something they don't mind paying for.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.