Should we give them “A Few Dollars More” or “Hang ’Em High”?

Unions: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly



By: Dr. Charles Ormsby – March, 2011

The right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is cherished by all Americans. To protect this right our Constitution restricted the powers of the federal government by enumerating its only powers. This restricted listing of powers was deemed by the Constitutional Convention to provide sufficient protection for our pre-existing individual liberties. But, just in case some self-absorbed, power-hungry legislature or special interest decided to ignore the boundaries of these enumerated powers and begin stomping on our rights, the Constitution was amended with a Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights did not list all our rights. Instead, the Bill of Rights sought to dig a deeper moat around a core set of specific/critical rights whose violation was most feared by those reluctant to ratify the proposed Constitution.

A key characteristic of our rights is that they are shared by ALL Americans. They are not designed for a privileged few while being denied to others. These rights are to be held in common and enjoyed equally.

A second critical characteristic of these rights is that they must be understood as being mutually consistent and non-contradictory, meaning that the rights of one individual must be exercised in a manner that does not deny others the equal exercise of their rights.

To ensure their mutual consistency, the exercise of some rights can, in rare circumstances, be restricted. For example, falsely crying fire in a crowded theater can be forbidden to protect the lives of those in the theater from unnecessary panic.

It is important to note that this example of restricted speech is very limited. First, it is invoked only in a very particular combination of circumstances (in space: in the theater; in time: when the theater is crowded; and in content: it only applies to panic-inducing speech, e.g., crying Fire!). Second, the restriction is specifically designed to be the minimum possible constraint (the foregoing combination of circumstances or their equivalent) that can be imposed to ensure that our rights can be enjoyed equally by all.

By ensuring that our rights are understood in a consistent and non-contradictory fashion, we ensure that our rights can be enjoyed in the widest possible sphere of circumstances.

Let’s apply these basic concepts to the employer-employee relationship, and to unions and compulsory bargaining in particular.

The following discussion reflects “how our laws should be” based on a consistent theory of human rights. Unfortunately, our labor laws are not consistent with such an approach and, as a consequence, some segments of society (in cahoots with the majority of our legislators) are using our labor laws and the legal system to oppress other segments of society. We are no longer equally free. We no longer enjoy equal rights.

Let’s start at the beginning. Unions have no rights. None. Only individuals have rights.

Remember that our rights are to be shared equally by all Americans. Union members have these rights just like all other citizens. No more. No less.

The rights of all citizens are the same and their applicability to the various circumstances of our lives is identical. There cannot be one wit of difference if these are human rights and we are all human.

Everyone should have the right to associate with whomever they choose. They should be able to form and join unions. They should also be free to not join a union. They should be free to weigh the benefits and the restrictions. The choice should be theirs.

People should be free to communicate with whomever they choose. If they are employed, they should be free to commiserate with their fellow employees regarding the conditions of their employment, their wages, and their healthcare and pension benefits. They should also be free to bemoan their moronic bosses as depicted in the Dilbert cartoons … or otherwise, as they see fit.

Individuals should have the right to offer their services to an employer on whatever basis they choose. Equally, people should be able to offer whatever compensation they choose to others to induce them to accept employment.

Both employers and employees should be free to enter into negotiations with the hope of settling on a mutually agreeable employment relationship, and walk away from these negotiations if mutually agreeable terms cannot be identified.

People, if they wish, should have the right to join hands and offer their services as a group to an employer and then negotiate on that basis.

If a group of employees approaches an employer with an offer to negotiate, the employer should have the right to consent or to refuse to enter into negotiations. He must have the same right as the individual union members: communicate or not; negotiate or not; come to an agreement or not; form an association or not.

Contracts can be agreed to between a union and its members and/or between a union and an employer. There is no inherent violation of rights in any such contracts, but only if all parties agree to the terms without coercion.

Agreement in the presence of coercion is not agreement, it is coercion.

Today’s labor laws violate these principles in every respect.

Public and private employers are coerced to negotiate with unions. In a rare flash of honesty, the relevant laws are referred to as compulsory bargaining laws. The coercive nature of the law is evident.

But employers are not the only ones subject to the negative effects of coercion. The agreements that are coerced restrict the employers from negotiating potentially more favorable employment contracts with willing non-union members. Those non-union members are therefore denied the right to sell their services on terms acceptable to them and the employers.

Just try to negotiate a job with your local public school independent of the union. The school administration (representing the taxpayers and students) might find your offer appealing, but the administrators are not permitted to agree to these terms under the district’s coerced union contract.

So consider this: you (the prospective employee), the school administrators, the taxpayers, and the students all believe that you/they would be better off if your offer were accepted, but the union stands in the schoolhouse door and says, “NO! Our coerced contract terms trump your right to association and your right to enter into a mutually agreeable contract. Your rights be damned!”

This coercion, acting over half a century, has substantially degraded our nation’s educational system, detracted from the lives of hundreds of millions of individuals, severely damaged our economy, and placed us on the brink of bankruptcy.

Consistently violating human rights has consequences. Unions are not the problem. Our labor laws, based on compulsory bargaining, are to blame.

Wisconsin, near bankruptcy because of illegitimate union power, is fighting back. The governor and legislature are attempting to end compulsory bargaining. Republicans in Wisconsin are not taking away any union rights, because unions never had any rights. Remember, only individuals, whether union or non-union, have rights.

Unions and their fellow conspirators in the government are the ones responsible for abrogating the rights of others. They have trampled the equal rights of the rest of society in order to gain special privileges and rewards.

The right of the taxpayers – via their government representatives – to negotiate the best contracts for the procurement of needed services, has been violated.

The right of all non-union members to compete for public service jobs has been denied them.

Unions that are composed of members who join voluntarily and then deal with others without coercion are GOOD.

Unions and politicians that collude to enrich themselves at the expense of others are BAD.

Destroying the American concept of equal rights for all its citizens is downright UGLY.

I say, “Not even A Few More Dollars. It is time to Hang ‘Em High!”