Economy & Business

Unions’ Dirty Secret: They Can’t Survive without Coercion

An Amazon employee in Anaheim, Calif., March 23, 2020. (Alex Gallardo/Reuters)
The decision by Amazon workers in Alabama to reject unionization speaks to how truly unpopular organized labor has become.

It was heartening, though not particularly surprising, to see workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., decisively reject unionization efforts last week. When employees are afforded a choice, they usually snub organized labor. In fact, without coercive policies and interference from the National Labor Relations Board, any substantive union membership in this country would have evaporated long ago.

That certainly goes for public-sector unions, tax-funded monopolies that compel workers to pay dues that are then used to fund more political advocacy to perpetuate their monopoly. In any other sphere of American life, this is called “racketeering.” Janus v. AFSCME — a case in which Mark Janus, a non-union child-support specialist in Illinois, argued that his First Amendment rights were violated because he was forced to pay “agency fees” to a public-sector union — was supposed to put an end to this kind of coercion, but many unions simply ignore the law.

Though writers at progressive news sites are still fans — and all of us who watched unions help destroy hundreds of newspapers across the country find this highly counterintuitive — the idea of the labor unions is an antiquated one. And their influence is fading. If unions truly preserved “workers’ rights,” then membership would not have plummeted to its lowest levels in 80 years — even before Janus. In 2019, the year before COVID hit, the economy added more than 2 million jobs, but unionized workers fell by 170,000.

Organized labor exists because it is a big money-maker for Democrats. Former president Barack Obama attempted to push through a “card check certification” that would have compelled employees to decide on unionization in the open, where they could be intimidated by labor activists, rather than in secret ballot like any other fair election. Obama did, however, successfully institute “quickie elections” through the National Labor Relations Board, which not only violates the free-speech rights of employers but bars employees from making legal challenges to union campaigns until after elections.

Joe Biden is back at it. Democrats tucked an $86 billion bailout for union pensions in the “stimulus” bill. The president’s proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill is teeming with union goodies. Most elements of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, passed by the House earlier in the year, are in the proposal.

By “organize,” they mean force. For one thing, the bill would overturn existing state “right to work” laws that prohibit compulsory unionization and bar unions from creating closed shops that compel employees to pay dues. On top of that, it would strip employers of the right to hire replacement workers when union members strike; compel employers to hand over all employees’ cellphone numbers, addresses, emails, and work schedules to union organizers; institute backdoor card-check elections; and create a raft of new fines and punitive measures that could be used against companies that don’t acquiesce to labor demands.

On top of all this, employers are already severely limited in their ability to make anti-unionization arguments, while their opponents are largely free to engage in hyperbolic and misleading speech, amplified by their allies in the media. It has gotten so ridiculous that random members of the public can now effectively induce the government to sue employers in court for making jokes about a union.

Now, if American workers want to join organizations that exist to undercut initiative and achievement and slide them into safe, pre-determined slots regardless of ability or work ethic, like automatons, that’s entirely up to them. Alabama once again proves that isn’t often the case. And if workers were truly interested in belonging to these organizations, Democrats wouldn’t be clamoring to institute strong-arm policies that strip employees of their basic right to choice.


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