Commentary

Union Bosses Spout Hypocrisy Trying to Protect Forced-Dues Empire in West Virginia

By Stan Greer | February 12, 2016 | 4:51pm EST
Protesters organize as West Virginia becomes 26th Right to Work state. (AP Photo)

Since the Right to Work movement began more than six decades ago, Big Labor union bosses have gone to extraordinary measures to stop the spread of worker freedom.

One former union boss, Thomas E. Harris, actually gave a speech railing against worker freedom and branded Right to Work advocates as “warmongers!”

It’s true that Right to Work supporters have been fighting since the 1950’s to end Big Labor’s forced-dues funded empire, but Harris’ incendiary speech was a familiar tactic of union bosses trying to vilify and demonize their opponents rather than justify forcing workers to pay the union or be fired.

West Virginia is now America’s 26th Right to Work state, guaranteeing to Mountain State workers the right to get or keep a job without having to pay union dues or fees.

And this has Big Labor nervous. West Virginia is the fourth new Right to Work state in four years, dealing yet another blow to Big Labor’s chokehold over workers they claim to represent.

Unsurprisingly, union bosses have been espousing false and nonsensical arguments against a West Virginia Right to Work law.

But one common refrain among forced unionism allies is just plain ridiculous.  In fact, Thomas Harris even called it, “rather hypocritical … nonsense.”

AFL-CIO radio ads recently broadcast throughout the Mountain State insisted that a West Virginia Right to Work law would “get the government deeper into our … business relationships.”

This is just false.

Right to Work laws do not increase government intervention in employee-employer relationships.  They do, however, protect a workers’ fundamental right to freedom of association.

Ironically, union bosses don’t seem to have a problem that federal law prohibits contracts between employers and employees that prohibit unions in a workplace.  It’s only when Big Labor’s special government-granted privilege to force a worker to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment is challenged they union bosses cry foul, purporting to be defenders of free markets.

Since 1932, federal law has prohibited so-called “yellow-dog” employment contracts – that is, contracts under which a worker agrees as a condition of employment that he will not join a union. 

But even as it disallows “yellow-dog” arrangements, federal law authorizes and actively promotes the corralling into unions of workers who want nothing to do with a union.

Harris had no problems with government permitting forced unionism, and even wanted to expand Big Labor’s privileges.

But unlike the union propagandists trying to stop Right to Work in West Virginia, at least Harris didn’t pretend to be a supporter of “freedom of contract.”  

In a speech delivered to the American Bar Association when he was still the CIO’s associate general counsel, Harris admitted that he had once participated in the preparation of a pamphlet stating that Right to Work laws were “outrageous because they regimented the type of contract the parties could enter into.”

But this was “of course … nonsense,” Harris continued, because union officials “are not concerned in any abstract sense about government regimentation of the contents of collective bargaining agreements … .” 

Though he didn’t put it that way, for him and for the union brass, government “regimentation” of the workplace is just fine as long as the right ox is getting gored.  And if the “ox” is the ability of the independent-minded employee to remain union-free, Harris and his ilk have always said, “Chop away!”

The hardworking men and women of West Virginia have endured compulsory unionism long enough.  With over 80% of Americans agreeing that union dues or fees shouldn’t be required to get or keep a job, it’s clear that Big Labor’s hypocritical Right to Work smear campaigns have failed.

Every Mountain State worker deserves, and now has, the right to decide for him or herself if paying money to a union boss is advantageous instead of being forced to pay under threat of losing their job.

Welcome, West Virginia. You are now America’s 26th Right to Work State.

Stan Greer is the senior research associate of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.

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