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June 27, 2012

Overdue Backlash Against Public Employee Unions Has Liberals Freaking Out

One of the great gifts liberals benefited from before the rise of conservatism and conservative alternate media, is that so much of their policy preferences were treated as dogma. The media and many other public institutions (think schools) tended to share a similar outlook so public questions were generally "how much more" should something be done not, "should it be done at all".

Obviously that's changing and as liberals are being forced to try and defend their heretofore unquestioned positions, they are showing themselves to be unequal to the task.

Take this Harold Myerson op-ed in the Washington Post defending automatic dues collections by the state for unions and attacking the Knox v. SEIU and Citizens United decisions.

It [Alito's opinion in Knox] also changed the long-standing practice of allowing nonmembers to opt out of paying dues toward union functions outside collective bargaining, mandating instead that the unions “may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.” In other words, unions would have to ask for nonmembers’ permission to collect political assessments and, possibly, any dues at all. “Individuals should not be compelled to subsidize private groups or private speech,” Alito wrote.


These two decisions [Knox and Citizens United] mean that a person who goes to work for the unionized Acme Widget Company can refuse to pay for the union’s intervention in political campaigns but has no recourse to reclaim the value of his labor that Acme reaps and opts to spend on political campaigns. Citizens United created a legal parity between companies and unions — both are free to dip into their treasuries for political activities — but Knox creates a legal disparity between them: a worker’s free-speech right entitles him to withhold funds from union campaign and lobbying activities, but not the value of his work from the company’s similar endeavors.

Let's look at the assumptions packed into these paragraphs.

First, Myerson seems to think unions are entitled to take money from workers without prior permission and places the burden on the worker to reclaim their money. This actually fits with the notion many liberals seem to have that the government has first claim on your money and then decides how much they will let you keep by not taxing it.

Amazingly, as people figure these things out, they aren't as enamored of that plan as liberals seem to be.

Second, workers have no call on how their employer spends the money generated by the company. They have already been compensated for their labor through their wages. That's the end of the transaction. If a worker wants to have a say in how the income of the company is spent, they are free to buy shares (if it's a publicly traded company) and then they can have their say with all the other owners.

If a worker is employed by a privately held company and buying into ownership isn't an option, the individual can quit and go to a company where they can have that voice.

That leads to the third problem with Myerson's argument, employment is voluntary while in closed shops (which most public sector jobs are) unions are mandatory. If you don't like how a company you work for does business, go to another company. Individuals have a right to contract for their labor without having to have a third party (a union) involved. Liberals simply want to insist that third party be part of the process. Why? Because as they are quite open in saying, it helps fund Democrats (Here's another Myerson column admitting as much). There's no reason why the state should be compelling people to indirectly fund one political party or the other.

Democrats always talk about "freedom of choice" but from unions to education, they want the only "choice" to be mandatory support for the institutions that support them. Dismantling these mutually supportive structures and the political assumptions that underlay them isn't simply a partisan fight, it's a fight for liberty.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:23 AM

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