Workers should be allowed to choose whether to unionize 

Even as they scream for “workers’ rights,” the one worker right union bosses despise is that right to work. The American left has hoisted “choice” onto a pedestal taller than the Washington Monument.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., understands that exercising this choice is a basic human right, and neither private employment nor government work should require joining or paying dues to a union.

DeMint has introduced the National Right to Work Act. The bill’s economic rationale is compelling:

- Among America’s 22 right-to-work states (including Florida, Georgia and Texas), nonfarm private sector employment grew 3.7 percent from 1999 to 2009, while it shrank 2.8 percent among America’s 28 forced-unionism states (such as California, Illinois and New York).

- During those 10 years, real personal income rose 28.3 percent in right-to-work states and sank
14.7 percent in forced-unionism states.

- In 2009, cost-of-living adjusted, per capita disposable personal income was $35,543 in right-to-work states versus $33,389 in forced-unionism states. Americans in right-to-work states enjoyed more freedom, plus this $2,154 premium.

Notwithstanding that right-to-work states are comparatively prosperous engines of job growth, the case for right-to-work is not merely economic but also moral.

“Government has granted union officials the unprecedented power to force individual employees to pay up or be fired and to coerce workers into subsidizing union speech,” the National Right to Work Committee’s Patrick Semmens said. “This fundamental violation of individual liberty ... finally would end with passage of the NRTWA.”

“Compulsory unionism ... should not be lawful under a free government or tolerated by a free people,” Donald R. Richberg wrote in his book, “Compulsory Unionism: The New Slavery.” As a labor attorney and federal official, Richberg helped draft landmark union laws, including the 1926 Railway Labor Act, the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act and the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. Later in his career, however, Richberg considered such legislation authoritarian.

Labor leaders should not fear voluntary membership. If their talents for securing higher wages, richer pensions and cozier working conditions are truly as impressive as advertised, Americans should line up to sign up. If, however, unions must dragoon workers into their ranks, why should government allow or even mandate such bondage?

Last October, pollster Frank Luntz surveyed 760 private- and public-sector unionized employees. Eighty percent agreed that union membership and dues should be optional. Hence, the National Right to Work Act is good policy and good politics — if only Republicans and free-marketeers would promote it.

Today’s union bosses might dismiss the NRTWA as a right-wing plot, but they should recognize that it reflects the philosophy of a pioneering union boss.

None other than Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, once wisely said, “I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty — the principles of voluntarism. No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force, we but tear apart that which, united, is invincible.”

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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