Saturday, December 15, 2012

Right to work

I have to admit that I am with Jon Chait here:

Why is it fair to make workers in union workplaces pay an agency fee even if they don’t want to join the union? If you step back and think about it, the focus on this as a matter of personal liberty is kind of silly. On almost every single point of possible discontent you may have with a job — you don’t like the pay, you don’t like the hours, you don’t like your boss, you don’t like wearing a hairnet, you don’t like having ESPN blocked on your work computer even when there’s no work for you to do — the recourse is go work somewhere else. That recourse is also available for people who don’t want to pay an agency fee.
On top of that, there’s an additional recourse available for union-hating workers that isn’t available for most things. If a majority of workers don’t want to be represented by a union, they can vote to decertify the union.
Notice that we have almost no interest on attacking other aspects of employment that reduce freedom for the workers involved.  If unions made life worse for workers they would, on average, wither way if there were enough employment alternatives.  So if you think Unions are uniformly bad then maybe fighting for full employment would be a better choice?  Then everyone could vote (with their feet) for the jobs that they found the most satisfying.  

But curiously the right to work folks don't seem to be agitating for increased government spending to make full employment a reality.  Nor do they seem to be principled anti-deficit folks fighting for more workplace regulation in other arenas.  It's all rather confusing.

1 comment:

  1. The New Republic has a good piece on the branding of this story:

    "Nevertheless, there is an important lesson for liberals and labor in the Michigan story about the power of rhetoric. "Right to work" is a mendacious slogan but a politically resonant one. It's mendacious because everyone in every state has the right to work; the legislation simply gives employees the right to be free riders--to benefit from collective bargaining without paying for it. Yet members of the media mostly employ the phrase without qualification. (Even those that say "so-called" right to work repeat the phrase over and over again.) This past Saturday, the Washington Post'sfront page featured stories on gay marriage going before the U.S. Supreme Court and the right to work debate in Michigan--and a casual reader could assume that both stories were about "rights" ascendant."