FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No, Scott, “Right to Work” Isn’t Libertarian

On March 9, governor (and likely presidential candidate) Scott Walker signed legislation making Wisconsin America’s 25th “right to work” state. Anti-union conservatives rejoiced. They were joined by some self-described libertarians.

But “right to work” isn’t libertarian. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of libertarian. It abridges freedom of association and right to contract for both unions and employers.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (the “Wagner Act”) was the first major government intrusion into American labor relations. It provided for elections in which workers could choose unions to represent them and negotiate contracts with employers.

Because Wagner was crafted by employers and big union bosses, its provisions were designed to empower employers and big union bosses, not workers. Its “closed shop” and “one union per workplace” rules benefited the workplace-focused AFL and CIO unions (which later merged) at the expense of unions which aimed to organize by craft or industry (like IWW). Its “no wildcat strikes” and “no sympathy strikes or boycotts” rules benefited employers who knew they could pass on higher union labor costs to consumers and were willing to do so in exchange for predictable labor costs.

Wagner was bad enough. But then came “Taft-Hartley,” the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947. Taft-Hartley leaves the Wagner framework in place, but allows states to adopt “right to work” laws which forbid “closed shops” (even if unions and employers both want exclusivity), while simultaneously requiring employers and unions to treat non-union workers as if they are union workers.

Under “right to work,” an employer can’t require an employee to join a union as a condition of employment … but if the employer has a contract with a union, he has to give that non-union worker the same pay, benefits and disciplinary protections as the contract specifies for union members.

Under “right to work,” a union can’t collect dues from non-members in workplaces it represents … but it’s required to represent those non-members in contract negotiations, disciplinary proceedings, etc. exactly as if they were dues-paying members.

The Wagner Act restricts freedom in labor relations. That’s why libertarians want it repealed.

Taft-Hartley, aka “right to work,” restricts freedom in labor relations even more in a ham-handed attempt to bust organized labor. That’s why libertarians want it repealed as well.

If legislation was subject to truth in advertising laws, “right to work” would be labeled “right to freeload on employers and unions.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail