David R. Henderson  

The Employee Suppression of Choice Act

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Under current law, workers, to be represented, must vote in a secret ballot. The EFCA would give unions another way to monopolize a workplace: get a majority of workers to sign a card authorizing a union to represent them. This would make it easier for unions to organize workplaces because the unions could intimidate workers one by one. The virtue of a secret ballot, on the other hand, is that it lets workers vote the way they wish without fear of retribution.
Government grants of monopoly (except, possibly, patents, which are problematic) are wrong whether they are granted to taxicab companies (as they are in almost all U.S. cities), TV cable companies, or groups of workers. Government-created monopoly in the taxi business violates the right of consumers to deal with taxis of their choice and the right of potential taxi owners who are not allowed to enter the business. Government-granted monopoly in cable violates the right of consumers to deal with the cable company of their choice and the right of potential cable companies to enter the business. So, too, government grants of monopoly to workers violate the right of employers to choose workers they want to deal with and of workers who would like to work for an employer and not be represented by a union.

From David R. Henderson, "The Employee Suppression of Choice Act," Forbes.com, November 3, 2008

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CATEGORIES: Labor Market

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Dr. T writes:

Apparently, current union law does not apply to federal workplaces. Last year, a professional healthcare workers union (that already represented nurses) wanted to represent physicians, dentists, psychologists, pharmacists, radiation and medical technologists, physical therapists, etc. at the Memphis Veterans Administration Medical Center. Unbeknownst to us, voting rules had changed in a way that seemingly violated federal law. The usual rule is that a majority of the eligible workers must vote "yes" for unionization to occur. The medical center director changed the rules so that the union needed only a majority of votes cast. The healthcare professionals thought that not voting was the same as a "no" vote. Less than one-fourth of them voted, but the union won the election.

Methinks writes:

In the Soviet Union, a.k.a. the Workers' paradise, everyone was required to be a union member. That worked out well. I know that the U.S. would most likely resemble Western Europe (and its double digit unemployment) than the USSR but I always think of the USSR as testing socialism at the limit. If unions are so good for labour, then unionizing all labour would be best - except it doesn't work that way.

It's amazing to me that in the midst of economic turmoil, our government would find new ways to prevent economic growth.

Greg writes:

Just to play devil's advocate, why do you think workers are more subject to coercion by the union than by their employer? Certainly, there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence of companies like Wal-Mart illegally suppressing union activity and firing people who try to organize. Is there any evidence of unions trying to coerce employees?

I agree that unions are an economic negative, but I find it interesting that conservatives frame this debate in terms of freedom. It seems to me that for many conservative pundits freedom becomes a more salient concern in some cases than in others.

Dr. T writes:

In response to Greg:

My mother worked at a Nestles chocolate factory that dumped its local union and brought in the AFL/CIO. Dues increased five-fold. The number of full-time union positions increased three-fold. When top union officials took a stand, union members were expected to approve in open votes. Those who didn't were punished. My mother's car was badly damaged (smashed lights, slashed tires, and sugar in the gas tank that wrecked the engine) because she voted against a union-desired policy. She was just one of dozens who received similar treatment.

Nestles never treated employees as bad as the AFL/CIO did. The company had a good safety record, and it was paying 20-40% more than the prevailing wages before the AFL/CIO arrived. All the union did was take dues money and add an additional set of bosses (who were much nastier than Nestles' foremen).

Greg writes:


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