Rights and Freedom


The right to collective bargaining is unlike other “rights” that Americans cherish. For one thing, it is not a Constitutional right; there is no mention of collective bargaining in the U.S. Constitution. It also differs from other rights - like the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right worship in the way we choose - in that it does not ban government interference. Take a look at the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It is stating that in regard to religion, speech and association, the government should just stay away - leave us be. And most rights do not require anything of other parties. The National Labor Relations Act, on the other hand, requires an employer to bargain with a union and creates a government agency, the National Labor Relations Board, to enforce compliance. In effect, the Act is a reduction of rights. Forcing an employer to bargain with a union takes away his freedom to run his business as he sees fit. He must meet with union representatives and listen to their demands, even when he already knows what they want and doesn’t intend to go along. And although it is not defined in the Act, the employer is required to bargain in good faith. “Good faith” presumably means the employer cannot immediately say “no way” and terminate the meeting. He must at least pretend to listen. It is like the government is telling the employer how to feel: “I don’t like your attitude, Mister!”

The NLRA also takes away the employer’s right to “bargain” with workers not currently employed by him. His current employees have formed a union presumably because they are not satisfied with the terms offered. There may be plenty of workers in the area who would be happy with those terms, but the employer cannot consider them. He must deal exclusively with the union – the current employees. His right to consider other workers is denied as are the rights of those other workers, who - we must assume - are either jobless or working at a lower wage than this employer is offering. The less well-off workers get the shaft. Government intervention that hurts one group in order to help another is morally wrong.

The freedom of the employer is curtailed, as is the freedom of outside jobseekers. Without the NLRA, the employer would not be forced to deal with unionized workers. He would be free to employ anyone willing to accept the terms he is offering.

What freedom does the union worker lose without the NLRA? He’d lose the right to have his representatives bargain exclusively with his employer. However, he would be free to keep his job at the wage offered - which ordinarily is at least as high as it was when he freely accepted the job - and he would be free to seek a better-paying job elsewhere. Freedom is good, right?


Unions are Killing Michigan
The Wagner Act
What Economists Think
Why the Market Wage is Better
The Illogic of Collective Bargaining
Market Wage vs. Fair Wage
Imagining a Free Labor Market
Rights and Freedom
Destruction of the Middle Class
Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
Job Security
Collective Bargaining and Unemployment
Social Costs of Collective Bargaining
Ending Fringe Benefits
Democrats and Unions
Collective Bargaining in Government