Grassroots Commentary

The Forced Right to Collective Bargaining

Thomas Berry · Nov. 18, 2011

Two days after the defeat of Ohio Issue 2, a new ballot initiative campaign, the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment, was launched. We’ll read the initiative after seeing what has already been said in opposition to it.

Ohio AFL-CIO president Tim Burga says this is a “broad assault on workers’ rights,” even more so than he believed Issue 2 to have been. Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are (Not) Ohio, the Big Labor front group that received the majority of its funding for its successful anti-Issue 2 campaign from out-of-state unions, calls it a circumvention of the will of the voters concerning Issue 2 (despite there being no commonality at all with Issue 2) and their support for collective bargaining rights.

The Democrat Party has been just as strident. Ohio party chairman Chris Redfern calls it a “direct offense on working families.” State representative Tracy Heard (D-Columbus) said, “Right-to-work doesn’t guarantee rights to the worker.”

Senator Nina Tuner (D-Cleveland) offered a remark that was actually quite insightful. As quoted in the Columbus Dispatch, Senator Turner said, “the word freedom in the effort is ‘an absolute illusion.’

”‘Freedom to do what?’ she said. ‘We know this will create the lowering of wages. We seem to have a race to the bottom in this state and this nation that somehow it’s not OK for people to reap the fruits of their labor. We know as union membership increased, the wages of all have increased.’“

Having read these remarks in the initial volley of Big Labor opposition, please read now the summary of the amendment.

  1. No law, rule, agreement, or arrangement shall require any person or employer to become or remain a member of a labor organization.
  2. No law, rule, agreement, or arrangement shall require, directly or indirectly, as a condition of employment, any person or employer, to pay or transfer any dues, fees, assessments, other charges of any kind, or anything else of value, to a labor organization, or third party in lieu of the labor organization.

The proposed law would not:

  1. Prevent any person from voluntarily belonging to or providing support to a labor organization.
  2. Apply to agreements entered into or renewed prior to the enactment of this section.

Early opponents to the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment call these four clauses an attack on workers’ rights – despite the fact that those rights are specifically protected. Indeed, workers’ rights are expanded by the amendment to include the right to join or not join a union.

But to these opponents, such an expansion of workers’ rights is an attack on rights. In other words: As a worker, you have rights only when you do not have the right to not join or support a union. Rights exist only within tyranny’s confines, and reduction of tyranny is an attack on rights. Orwell would be proud.

When you stop and think about it, Senator Turner is correct – just not on the her perceived benefits of forced unionism. Freedom is an illusion, and especially so when one is forced to support or participate in causes one finds odious.

For example, Big Labor has been adamant in its support for President Obama and his fellow progressives. But does every worker in Ohio who is forced by law to pay union dues to support pro-Obama lobbying agree with the Obama agenda?

Does every one of these workers agree with, say, Obama’s radical advocacy of abortion? If a worker is opposed to abortion, but is forced to pay union dues that are used to fund pro-abortion political campaigns, then where is the worker’s freedom of speech, or of association? Are not these workers being forced to subscribe to a political viewpoint they oppose, even when their doing so is called an exercise of their rights? Or, in forcing workers to join and support unions, is it presumed that they are mindless drones who will practice only the accepted groupthink?

Is not the forced and involuntary payment of union dues a denial of their ability to, in Senator Turner’s words, "reap the fruits of their labor”? Is it not the union that is doing the reaping instead, with or without the worker’s permission?

The Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment is intended to correct the anomaly of workers in a free society being compelled against their will to join and support organizations that advocate positions contrary to their own. It is only natural that the beneficiaries of forced association and forced payment of dues should object.

It's Right. It's Free.