The Conservative Case Against Right To Work

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On Thursday, the Missouri State Legislature passed right to work legislation, sending it to the desk of Governor Eric Greitens. Should Greitens sign the bill, Missouri would become the 28th right to work state. Right to work laws are becoming more and more popular among conservatives and have spread to many new states in recent years. However, the effect of right to work on the freedom of business owners is not usually considered.

Right to work laws allow employees to opt-out of paying union dues or being a member of a union as a condition of employment at a given firm.

For public sector workers, right to work is a must. Postal unions, teachers unions, and other public sector unions have been financing Democrats for years. Between 2012 and 2014, unions donated over $400 million to left-wing causes.

After union-backed politicians get into office, they often appoint union leaders as those who negotiate with the unions, leading to inflated wages for government workers and inflated taxes for the rest of us.

Passing a federal version of Act 10, a 2011 Wisconsin law which removed collective bargaining for government workers, would be excellent. In fact, President Trump has spoken with former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker about expanding the controversial law nationwide.

This would be the first step to decreasing the influence of and even eliminating public sector unions, which are truly a detriment to the American taxpayer. Public sector workers should be provided fair wages by congress, state legislatures, and city councils without having to rely on a union.

Conservatives rightly argue that right to work in the public sector gives workers more freedom and allows them to refuse to contribute to their union’s financing of political causes and candidates.

Liberals counter that Unionization raises wages and those who refuse to pay their dues are freeloaders, taking advantage of union-negotiated wages and benefits on the backs of the paying Union members.

However, a point that is often neglected by folks on the right is the freedom of a private business owner to require or not require Union membership as a condition of employment.

Many business owners would prefer to have a union workforce. It makes negotiation much simpler and easier. In addition, Union workers are usually better trained and certified. Unions can provide employers with vetted, trained, and reliable workers.

In addition, employment is a voluntary relationship. No one is forcing workers to join a union. If they don’t want to become a union member, they can either quit and work for a non-union employer or recoup the portion of their dues which funds political causes by exercising their Beck rights.

With all of the attention paid by conservatives to the freedom of business owners to refuse service for a gay wedding based on religious beliefs, they have been slow to recognize that an employer should have the freedom to require or not require union membership as a condition of employment. Just like the minimum wage, right to work violates the right of business owners and employees to engage in a mutually beneficial and mutually consensual relationship.

Breaking up public-sector unions is an imperative for taxpayers, and it is unfair that government workers often indirectly contribute to political causes they don’t support. However, right to work in the private sector violates the freedom of business owners, and is indicative of the predilection of government towards inserting itself into private, voluntary economic activity.

John Sulzer is a senior contributor at The Liberty Conservative. John has been writing on politics, culture, and public policy since 2015 from a conservative perspective. His work can also be found at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Western Free Press.

  • Grant K.

    I agree Unions are not the evil entity that they are made out to be in the Conservative lexicon. Unions definitely have a place in the society to build highly skilled and highly paid workers to help rebuild the middle class. The Unions have been another part of the democrat party that has been ignored. The Republican Party needs to go after Unions as part of an economic development plan for the rebuilding of the Blue Collar middle class worker. Facts prove that Unions are higher paid hourly wages than non- Union. Many companies want to pay these highly skilled employees. It is a discredit to the Republican Party not to appeal to these skilled laborers.

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