The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld, by a 4-4 tie vote, to uphold the power of public sector unions to impose union dues on non-union workers. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, SCOTUS refused to overrule a lower court’s decision not to overturn a prior SCOTUS ruling granting this power to public sector unions.
In a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter lauding this decision, GOP is killing the middle class, correspondent John F. Hessel wrote, in part:
With the Supreme Court evenly divided, [Republicans’] assault on lower-court decisions that favored organized labor has come to an abrupt end. Thank goodness.
Seventy years ago, following the end of World War II, workers voted to join labor unions to represent them in collective bargaining with their employers. This led to the creation of a middle class that helped drive our economy for 60 years, until all of the free trade agreements were passed.
However, the Republicans continue their assault on labor unions, particularly those that represent state and local workers.
Hessel is wrong on several counts.
Laws that favor unions—i.e., force employers to deal with unions and force unwilling workers into unions—turn unions into quasi-criminal organizations. This is especially true of public sector unions. The idea that the middle class is a product of criminality is absurd. If all that is needed to create the middle class are compulsory unionization laws, then why not force every human on the planet into a union?
Contrary to Hessel’s absurd assertion, the middle class is a product of free market capitalism, not coercive labor unions. Capitalism liberated the individual from omnipotent government. Once liberated, industrious individuals lifted themselves through work and free trade. The whole history of the average man prior to the late 18th Century was poverty-ridden, back-breaking stagnation. Then, with the rise of capitalism enabled by Enlightenment politics, prosperity exploded in the 19th Century. This prosperity, which quadrupled real wages in a single century after generations of stagnation, coincided with and was caused by the rise of the professional businessman/industrialist, the highest middle classer, who spread increasingly productive job-creation and material prosperity throughout society. Of course workers were integral to the productive process, but they did not cause it or lead it.
The middle class is characterized by productiveness and self-reliance, not government favors. Unions may help their members, and if they are compulsory unions they “help” their members at the expense of others’ freedom and jobs. Notice that for all of Hessel’s bluster, he doesn’t give a damn about Rebecca Friedrichs, on whose behalf the legal challenge to compulsory unionism was filed. I guess Hessel doesn’t consider Friedrichs, who doesn't want to be part of the union, to be a “worker” worthy of free choice.
Unions do not raise the general standard of living. Only productivity-enhancing investment can do that, as any basic economics text will tell you. Workers have a right to form unions and ask employers to negotiate with them. This is guaranteed by the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of association. But valid unions are voluntary associations that deal with employers in the spirit of trade, offering value in exchange for value in a mutually beneficial way.
Valid laws don’t favor unions or any economic factor over others. They simply banish aggressive force and equally protect every individual’s right to act on his own judgement, and associate with others by voluntary agreement, not force. Anything else is legalized criminality. The recent SCOTUS ruling upholding compulsory unionization is an indication of the threat to individual freedom and peaceful coexistence we face with a more “liberal”—meaning omnipotent government-favoring—Supreme Court.
[NOTE: I am a lifelong member of a private sector trade union.]
The Capitalist Manifesto—Andrew Bernstein
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