Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column
July 27, 1998
Right to work must be free of coercion
Most Americans say union membership should be voluntary

Most Americans would accept the notion that individuals should be free to work for whom they want, and that individuals should be free to hire whom they want, without having an third party telling them otherwise.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in the United States, thanks to the federal government. Under federal law, Congress has prevented employees from finding a job on their own, and then holding the job by their own merit. Instead, federal law has allowed labor unions to step in and dictate to both employers and employees everything including who can be hired, the terms of the contracts, the availability of promotions, and even the conditions that someone can be fired.

This is unconscionable. So much so, in fact, that polls report 80 percent of the American people believe these laws need to be changed. I'm one of those 80 percent who see the current state of the law as antithetical to a free society, and for that reason I am proud to be a cosponsor of the National Right to Work Act, H.R. 59.

The National Right to Work Act simply repeals sections of federal law giving union officials the power to force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Compulsory unionism violates employers' and employees' constitutional rights of freedom of contract and association. Further, Congress has no constitutional authority to force employees to pay union dues to a labor union as a condition of getting or keeping a job. Perhaps more importantly, though, Congress does not have the moral authority to grant a private third party the right to interfere in the employment agreements between two free people.

Unions should be allowed to exist, as long as they are voluntary agreements between the people involved. In fact, we don't need more regulations on the unions or the employers or the employees. In fact, we need fewer regulations on the kinds of employment agreements people can reach, and allow people to choose whom they wish as their representative, if they so choose.

Unions can serve a beneficial service to employees and even employers. But never should unions have the benefit of the government force giving them power; that is intolerable.

After all, no single organization can be expected to "speak" for everyone. This is why there is so much controversy over the political spending of the unions. The union leadership, for many years, has grown "out of step" with many of its members. Yet thanks to the government, members have no choice but to continue paying dues, which are then used to promote causes they oppose.

A far better system is one of voluntary union membership. If a worker feels the union can represent them and they agree with the politics (or do not care), they are free to join the union. Likewise, an employee can choose to not join a union at all. In fact, a great market could open up, where several unions could exist, giving employees a choice of which union will best represent their interests with the dues they pay.

But at every stage the agreements should be voluntary. Employees should be free to join or not join, and employers should be free to bargain with the unions, or not. The free market will sort out the details. The free and open market, not the heavy, restrictive hand of the government, will determine the best employment atmosphere, allowing for maximum freedom for the employees and the employers.

Americans must have a right to work -and hire - as best suits their needs. A government bureaucrat cannot mandate the conditions, and no single organization can do everything. As always, the principle of liberty and freedom will provide the maximum number of opportunities and options.