Prior to joining Heartland, Marc was a graduate student at Purdue University studying political psychology and education policy. He enjoys defending liberty, writing about education and technology, music, designing websites, and is a fan of the NFL team in Indianapolis. Go Colts!
So-called “Right to Work” laws have been reinforcing government tyranny and putting artificial pressures on labor markets for too long. States have felt the pressure to rule against private union agreements–lawful contracts between a shop and a union–since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The act added regulation on employers, disallowing them from entering into exclusive contracts with employee unions to create a “closed shop.” The Act made exception to contract for a “union shop” which would allow any worker to be hired, so long as they join the union within 30 days.
While all of this regulation, and the preceding National Labor Relations Act, are unnecessary government interference in the market, one element stands out from the rest. The Taft-Hartley Act contains a clause under which any state government (not local) can also outlaw the “union shop” thereby creating so-called “right to work” states. As each state adds the mandate–often as a result of anti-union political sentiment–surrounding states are pressured to do the same, in order to remain competitive.
So-called “Right to Work” laws do not protect individual rights, instead the laws remove individual rights to bargain and enter into private contracts. Without the laws, individuals retain the right to work wherever they so choose, under the rules of that employer. Just as an employer may enter into a contract with a uniform provider, they can do so with a union. Mandating that employees should have the “right” to work outside of those contracts is unfair to employers, unions, and individuals. Anyone considering themselves ideologically libertarian, or even a believer in small government and laissez-faire capitalism, should oppose “Right to Work” laws on the grounds that any employer should have the right and freedom to enter into labor contracts with whomever they wish.
These additional regulations do more harm than good. Aside from forcing the acceptance of “free riders” who benefit from unions but don’t pay dues and defining government as contract editor, the rules put artificial pressure on markets. According to the Economic Policy Institute the laws have “not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.” One in-depth study of the most recent law in Mississippi found that “since the law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and relocations into the state reversed their climb and began to fall.”
Reversing the unfair actions of Taft-Hartley should be a priority for federal legislators. Any revised law should allow employers freedom to enter into contracts with employee unions. In the meantime, state legislators should resist the urge to regulate private union contracts. Removing these artificial forces from the employment market would remove pressure from the 28 states trying to hold out against the forces of government tyranny.