Like many media apologists for compulsory unionism, Athens (Ohio) News editor Terry Smith is adept at sneering at people who don’t share his views. But his ability to do even minimal research on the topic about which he recently wrote is questionable.
Near the beginning of a pro-union monopoly screed he penned for his newspaper this week, Smith snorts:
[R]ight-to-work makes perfect sense, if you don’t think about it.
But the sad fact is, if Smith himself has thought about the Right to Work issue for more than a few minutes, he shows little sign of it.
Since union bosses in the U.S. who are deemed to have majority support in a workplace are granted monopoly power to negotiate the pay, benefits and work rules for employees who don’t want that union, and never asked for it, as well as those who do, Smith contends, employees who prefer to remain union-free must nevertheless be forced to pay union dues or fees, or be fired. After all, they receive the “benefits” of union membership. If they don’t fork over money to the unwanted union, they’re “freeloaders.”
Smith simply assumes that ALL workers who are subject to a union contract, wanted or not, get better pay and health insurance, or other benefits, as a consequence. But this is obviously a false assumption.
As Pennsylvania Law School professor Clyde Summers, himself no foe of compulsory unionism, explained in a 1995 scholarly review article, the invocation of union monopoly bargaining as an excuse for forced dues isn’t just wrongheaded, it’s “scarcely coherent.”
Quoting from the book he was reviewing, Summers noted that the monopoly-bargaining excuse for forced dues is wrong first of all because workers who don’t want a union are “often actually made worse off” as a consequence of unionization than they were before.
Summers elaborated in his own words:
Full-timers may bargain to limit the jobs of part-timers, seniority provisions may disadvantage younger workers, and wage increases of the low-skilled may be at the expense of the highly skilled.
With all due respect to Smith, the harmed workers aren’t “free loaders”; rather, they are “captive passengers.” There is no even halfway-plausible justification for forcing them to pay union dues as a job condition.
An even greater problem with Smith’s “free loader” argument cited by Summers is that it is obviously not applicable “to a wide range of private associations.” Here is just one of the multiple examples he mentioned:
If a parent-teacher association raises money for the school library, assessments are not levied on all parents.
Clyde Summers, since deceased, recognized that denying private organizations the legal power to collect compulsory assessments, even from people who really do benefit from their activities, is a “hallmark of a free society.”
Anyone who is even somewhat familiar with the web site of the National Right to Work Committee and that of the Institute (its affiliated “think tank”) would be aware of the points made by Summers nearly two decades ago. And of course, Summers is hardly the only labor-law expert to make such arguments. Yet Smith seems totally unaware of what informed Right to Work supporters have to say about the issue.
If Smith has good answers to the points raised by Summers and many others, he should provide them publicly. Otherwise, he owes Right to Work supporters an apology for his ill-informed and unwarranted insults.