Harvard Students’ Analysis Of Right-To-Work Demonstrates Ignorance Of Rights, Work

Jeff Rhodes Managing Editor, Freedom Foundation
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Cementing once and for all their university’s well-earned reputation as a $50,000-a-year echo chamber for leftist talking points masquerading as an institution of higher learning, students Alisha Ukani and Matthew Watson this month published in the Harvard Political Review an analysis of right-to-work legislation that perfectly encapsulates the “I-like-it, you-buy-it” curriculum being peddled on virtually every college campus in America these days.

Headlined, “Right-to-Work is Wronging Workers,” the 2,000-word article boils down to one manifestly simple proposition: Right-to-work weakens unions. And since the authors believe unions are good, anything that weakens them must by definition be bad.

Like most simple propositions, however, theirs is simply wrong.

Let’s start with the a priori assertion that right-to-work weakens unions. While it’s true they have an inverse relationship with one another, that doesn’t necessarily prove causation.

What Ukani and Watson miss – whether through willful ignorance or partisan zeal – is that right-to-work legislation doesn’t prevent anyone from joining a union. Workers are still free to make common cause with their peers to address workplace concerns and bargain collectively.

Right-to-work simply allows them to keep their jobs if they don’t.

If workers exercise that freedom by deciding the benefits union membership don’t outweigh the cost, is freedom the culprit, or does the union bear some responsibility for its own demise?

The so-called “free rider” argument cited in the article is just as easily discredited. The authors observe that unions have an obligation to represent even non-member workers, but they act as though that responsibility was thrust upon them rather than demanded by the unions themselves.

Unrepresented workers understand full well they’re independent contractors with no claim to a union-negotiated wage; that’s a price they’re willing to pay for their freedom.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito addressed this contradiction directly in Harris v. Quinn (2014).

In his majority opinion, Alito wrote, “…except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”

In other words, the perceived unfairness of allowing some workers to enjoy the fruits of collective bargaining they didn’t help pay for pales in comparison with the alternative of abridging their actual Constitutional rights.

Lastly, Ukani and Watson tip their hand about their true concern when they dismiss right-to-work as a “tool for the Republican Party to hobble the power of the Democratic voting base.”

In reality, it would only balance the scales by eliminating a huge unfair advantage Democrats currently enjoy in campaign funding.

While GOP candidates are obliged to rely almost exclusively on donors who actually agree with their positions, Democrats nationwide are handed tens of millions of dollars every election cycle by union leaders who rake off dues money from workers who have no choice but to fork it over if they want to keep their jobs.

Just as unions are able to stifle competition in the labor market and foist an inferior product on workers by virtue of their government-sanctioned monopoly, liberal politicians have grown accustomed to having their inferior ideas forcibly subsidized by many, many Americans who don’t share them.

Again, we get that Ukani and Watson like unions and believe workers are better off when they belong to one. And they’re entitled to their opinion.

They’re just not entitled to impose it on millions of workers who’ve already opted out of union servitude and millions more who’d do so tomorrow if only they could.

Jeff Rhodes is managing editor of the Freedom Foundation, a free-market think-tank freeing workers from forced unionization.