Monopolistic Trade Unionism ‘an Alien Thing’

Big Labor Lawyers Paul Smith, Tom Geoghegan Confront the Truth

(Source: February 2015 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)

For decades, Big Labor bosses have sought to perpetuate and expand their special legal privileges to get workers fired for refusal to join or bankroll a union they don’t want, and never asked for, by impugning the motives of such workers.

union-lawyer-Paul-SmithUnion bigwigs are galled by the fact that, in the 24 Right to Work states, employees who refuse to join the union that wields monopoly-bargaining power in their workplace can thereby refuse to pay dues or fees to that union.

The primary motivation for many employees to resist bankrolling their union monopoly-bargaining agent is their belief that the union hierarchy is acting contrary to their economic interests.

Union propagandists typically pretend otherwise.

Over and over again, they have insinuated that the vast majority of, if not all, employees in Right to Work states who exercise their legal prerogative to refuse to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union actually approve of what the union is doing.

But over the past year, two prominent union lawyers — Paul Smith and Tom Geoghegan — have dropped the pretense and publicly acknowledged that many workers have solid grounds for believing they are economically harmed by union monopoly bargaining.

Teachers Are Forced to ‘Pay’ A Union to ‘Make an Argument’ With Which They Disagree

Mr. Smith, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, represented Service Employees International Union (SEIU) bosses in the case Harris v. Quinn. At oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2014, he was pushed into a corner thanks to the persistent questioning of Justice Sam Alito.

(In Harris v. Quinn, Big Labor sought unsuccessfully to get a constitutional green light to extract forced fees from home care providers who aren’t government or business employees. The care providers were represented free of charge by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys.)

At one point, the justice brought up the example, well-grounded in reality, of a teacher union that opposes merit pay and any change in the tenure system, and a teacher who is not a union member and “disagrees completely with the union on these issues.”

Even though the teacher is not a union member, continued Mr. Alito, he “still has to pay a pretty hefty agency fee, maybe $700 a year.

“So the teacher is paying this money to the union to make an argument to the employer with which the teacher completely disagrees.”

Mr. Alito subsequently asked what Mr. Smith would say to such an employee.

Mr. Smith then had no choice but to insist that the forced-dues “requirement is an appropriate thing which a public employer is allowed to impose” on employees who are harmed by a union as well as those who may be helped.

Union Bosses ‘Take a Chunk Of People’s Paychecks  Without Their Consent’

In his new book Only One Thing Can Save Us, published late last year, Mr. Smith’s fellow union lawyer Tom Geoghegan went a step further by acknowledging it’s no surprise that workers regard forced union dues as unfair and that its reliance on compulsion discredits unionism altogether in the eyes of many.

“What makes [organized] labor an alien thing” among U.S. workers, wrote Mr. Geoghegan regretfully, “is that it can take a chunk of people’s paychecks without their consent.”

Mr. Geoghegan further admitted that, under the monopoly-bargaining system of unionism enshrined by U.S. labor law, it is very difficult for workers either to change or escape from a union that is harming them.

Consequently, “[organized] labor looks like one more alien thing over which people have no control.”

Matthew Leen, Vice President of the National Right to Work Committee, cautioned that, as noteworthy as Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Geoghegan’s recent admissions are, there’s no good reason to believe either has had a fundamental change of heart.

“Paul Smith’s admission that forced dues for harmful ‘representation’ are a key Organized Labor objective came only under duress,” Mr. Leen explained.

“Tom Geoghegan laments worker alienation from Big Labor mostly because he wants union bosses to be even more effective in carrying out their class-warfare schemes than they already are.

“But the truth is a valuable thing, no matter whence it comes.”