Mitch Daniels is right, and Right to Work is wrong 

What is Scott Walker's fight about? Is it about battling entrenched special interests that pocket tax dollars and kick them back to politicians? Or is it just about punishing a Democratic constituency?

One place to draw a line: "Right to Work" laws. Mitch Daniels is drawing plenty of conservative heat for opposing his legislature's Right to Work law. But Daniels, like Walker, may be taking the true conservative position.

Advocates describe Right to Work laws as preserving workers' freedom not to join a union, which is a noble goal -- but it's not what Right to Work laws do. In fact, these laws interfere with the right of contract and they bar certain consensual economic arrangements -- specifically, they bar employers from agreeing to hire only union workers.

Let me put it this way: Imagine a liberal talking about a law imposing maximum hours rules. He might say, "nobody should be forced to work 50 hours a week." That's true -- nobody should be forced to work 50 hours a week -- but it's also a bit besides the point. Bosses don't force employees to do anything: they place conditions on those who want the boss's money. If you want to work for me and get paid by me, you will do A, B, and C. Some of these demands are more reasonable or more compassionate than others, but barring extreme circumstances, the conservative position is that people should be able to place whatever conditions they like on those who want their property.

Right to Work laws bar employers from imposing a different sort of condition: the requirement that all employees join a union. Thus they take away property rights and infringe on the right of contract.

There are plenty of stupid labor laws that restrict employer freedom, but none of these laws force employers to have a closed shop. Preventing employers from agreeing to a closed shop is no free-market solution.

ADDENDUM: Charles Johnson (NOT the Little Green Footballs guy, this guy writes the Rad Geek People's Daily) made the point much better in an email that he allows me to excerpt here:

Yes. Existing labor law is coercive and ought to be abolished, but there
are no jurisdictions in which employers are legally required to adopt a
"closed shop" or a "union shop" (*) contract. If a majority votes for
union representation in an NLRB election, then the boss is legally
coerced to recognize the union as a bargaining agent and to negotiate
with them in a collective-bargaining process. But they are not required
to accept a contract which would require all employees to become union
members.

What a "right-to-work" law does is not to fix the situation with coerced
recognition and negotiation. It adds a new layer of regulation on top of
the coerced recognition and negotiation, by *forbidding* unions and
employers from signing "union shop" contracts.

In a freed market, there would be no NLRB and there would be no
right-to-work laws. Employers would be free not to recognize unions, and
unions would be free to use any non-violent means at their disposal (of
which there are many, many of them currently illegal under U.S. labor
law) to convince the employer that it's in their interest to recognize
and bargain with them. And if they do sit down to bargain, employers and
unions would be free to adopt any labor contract that they see fit,
including contracts that require employees to already be members of the
union before they are hired, or contracts that require employees to join
the union as a condition of employment.

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Timothy P. Carney

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