Forced-Unionism Apologist Dean Baker Favors ‘Completely One-Sided’ Labor Laws
In a column published 50 years ago this summer, economic journalist Henry Hazlitt took on proponents of compulsory unionism who hypocritically invoke “freedom of contract” as their justification for their stance. At the time, Big Labor was pushing furiously for enactment of legislation repealing Sec. 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act. Since this is the only federal statutory provision that explicitly authorizes states to enact Right to Work laws prohibiting forced union dues and fees, wiping out Sec. 14(b) would have effectively ensured that private-sector employees in all 50 states could be corralled into unwanted unions.
Hazlitt blasted Big Labor apologists for “insincerely using an argument” that they didn’t really believe. As he noted, union officials and their ideological fellow travelers enthusiastically backed the longstanding federal “prohibition of the so-called ‘yellow-dog’ contract — a contract under which a worker agrees as a condition of employment that he will not join a union.”
The ban on “yellow-dog” contracts was and is supported by the vast majority of Americans, including Right to Work champions. For their part, pro-Right to Work citizens emphatically believe that the individual employee should be free to choose which private organizations, if any, he or she joins and financially supports, regardless of what the business owner or other employees think.
However, as Hazlitt went on to point out, compulsory-unionism proponents who believe “yellow-dog” contracts should remain illegal believe no such thing. On the one hand, they want to prohibit employers and employees who DON’T want a union from making an agreement that bars employees who belong to and financially support a union from being hired. On the other hand, they think the law should authorize and promote the corralling into unions of employees who personally want nothing to do with a union.
This inconsistent stance can’t reasonably be described as pro-“freedom of contract.” Rather, Hazlitt explained, what union officials and their cohorts “insist on” is “a completely one-sided law, which prohibits compulsory non-unionism while imposing compulsory unionism . . . .”
Big Labor had no answer for Henry Hazlitt in 1965, and still has no answer today. Nevertheless, apologists for monopolistic unionism continue today to make the same “freedom of contract” excuse for their stance that Hazlitt ripped to shreds half a century ago. Their apparent hope is that readers won’t recognize the cynical double standard they have adopted.
The latest example is Dean Baker, co-founder of the aggressively anti-Right to Work Center for Economic and Policy Research. In a long review article published this week in the Huffington Post, Baker takes on Government Against Itself, a recent book by political scientist Daniel DiSalvo critiquing the special privileges of government-sector unions. (See the link below for the entire review.)
There is much about DiSalvo’s book that upsets Baker, but what upsets him most of all is its advocacy of Right to Work protections for public servants. Baker claims that by defending union bosses’ privilege to cut deals with government employers to make financial support for their private organization a job condition he is only standing up for the “freedom of contract,” but as Hazlitt explained long ago, this is far from true.
“Yellow dog” arrangements between employers and employees have been banned in the private sector by statute for more than 80 years. And for several decades now they have also been banned in the public sector under the laws of all 50 states. There is not a single organization of any significance lobbying to bring back the “yellow dog” shop. And Dean Baker and his fellow Big Labor acolytes certainly aren’t in favor of bringing it back.
As long as that’s the case, to quote Hazlitt again, Baker et al “must in consistency agree to outlaw compulsory unionism everywhere as well as compulsory non-unionism.”