Pennsylvania law professor Clyde Summers admitted that, under labor statutes empowering union officials to negotiate terms of employment for nonmembers as well as members, workers who don’t want a union are often “made worse off” than they were before. But the union officials who are now berating Missouri’s just-signed Right to Work law pretend otherwise. Image: Penn Law

To justify their opposition to Right to Work laws prohibiting the termination of employees for refusal to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union, union officials invoke, time and again, Section 9(a) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As labor economist Charles Baird has explained, under Section 9(a):

American unions are not organizations that represent only their voluntary members. If they are certified . . . , they become the “exclusive” (monopoly) bargaining agents of all workers in the unit, whether individuals agree or not. Individuals are even forbidden to represent themselves.

Big Labor apologists often describe  NLRA Section 9(a) as “burdensome.”  If union officials really believed this were true, they could, as the National Right to Work Committee has long invited them to do, easily persuade Congress to repeal and replace 9(a) with a provision eliminating monopoly bargaining and establishing that unions may represent their members only.

But union officials have never accepted Committee leaders’ invitation, undoubtedly because they know elimination of 9(a) and analogous provisions in other labor statutes would remove their pretext for forced union dues.  Just as Br’er Rabbit actually wanted to be thrown into the briar patch he putatively feared, union bosses actually love the “burdensome” 9(a).

The fact is, Big Labor’s case for compulsory union dues is still “scarcely coherent.”

The late Clyde Summers, a Pennsylvania law professor who personally supported monopoly unionism generally and 9(a) in particular, used those exact words in a 1995 review article for the Comparative Labor Law Journal to dismiss pro-forced dues claims commonly made by Big Labor.

Quoting the book he was reviewing, Summers explained that under monopoly bargaining workers who don’t want a union are “often actually made worse off than the 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 high skilled.

Union bosses disdainfully refer to the workers who justly believe they are made worse off by unionization and consequently don’t want to bankroll the union as “free riders.” But they are really captive passengers. There is no plausible justification for forcing them to pay union dues as a job condition.

No reputable labor-law expert has ever challenged the point that many workers are economically harmed by unionization.  Instead, union bosses and other apologists for forced dues and fees simply ignore this unchallenged fact when they attack Right to Work laws.

Late last week, the Missouri Legislature sent a Right to Work measure protecting employees from forced union financial support to the desk of Gov. Eric Greitens. On Monday, Greitens, keeping a campaign pledge he had repeatedly maded, signed this legislation. (See the news story linked below for additional information.)

Big Labor is protesting that it has “a right to demand payment from non-members” because of its 9(a)-derived monopoly. What it ignores is that a “one-size-fits-all” union contract typically benefits some workers at others’ expense. Fortunately, the vast majority of ordinary citizens aren’t fooled by union bosses’ rhetoric. Lawmakers in the remaining 22 forced-unionism states shouldn’t be either.

Missouri Enacts Right to Work Law