Today, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a challenge to public-sector unions’ ability to extract forced dues from non-members. As my colleague Ilya Shapiro writes, and Ian Millheiser at Think Progress agrees, the Court seems poised to strike down “fair share” fees for public-sector workers who do not want to join the union. This would essentially mean that “right to work” would be constitutionally mandated for public-sector workers.
Such a ruling would correct a 40-year-old mistake the Court made in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. There, the Court ruled that public-sector union dues can be meaningfully separated into the “political” and the “non-political,” and that, while the First Amendment forbids forcing people to support political causes with which they disagree, public-sector unions can extract a “fair share” fee for non-political purposes.
From the very beginning, this distinction was under attack. As Justice Lewis Powell wrote in concurrence in Abood:
Collective bargaining in the public sector is "political" in any meaningful sense of the word. This is most obvious when public-sector bargaining extends . . . to such matters of public policy as the educational philosophy that will inform the high school curriculum. But it is also true when public-sector bargaining focuses on such "bread and butter" issues as wages, hours, vacations, and pensions.
In other words, public-sector unions are just another political special interest that seeks favors from the government, and what they can’t get at the ballot box they’ll get at the bargaining table.
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All eyes are on Wisconsin today to see whether Governor Scott Walker’s budget and public‐sector union reforms will be validated by the voting public. I applaud Walker’s reforms. But his reforms should be just the first step. Virginia took the next step two decades ago and completely repealed collective bargaining in the public sector.
I happened to hear conservative radio talker Chris Plante this morning discussing his support of Walker, but saying something like “But I’m not against collective bargaining rights in either the private sector or the public sector.”
Too many conservatives, and maybe even some libertarians, seem to buy the labor union line that collective bargaining is somehow a fundamental “right,” like the freedom of speech. It isn’t. Collective bargaining in both the private and government sectors is monopoly unionism. It represents a violation of the freedom of association.
Here’s what Charles Baird says on www.DownsizingGovernment.org:
The ideas embodied in the federal union laws of the 1930s make no sense in today’s dynamic economy. Luckily, constant change and innovation in the private sector has relegated compulsory unionism to a fairly small area of U.S. industry. But the damage done by federal union legislation is still substantial. Many businesses and industries have likely failed or gone offshore because of the higher costs and inefficiencies created by federal union laws, while other businesses may not have expanded or opened in the first place. So the damage of today’s union laws is substantial, but often unseen, in terms of the domestic jobs and investment that the laws have discouraged.
Davis‐Bacon, the Norris‐LaGuardia Act, and the National Labor Relations Act serve the particular interests of unionized labor rather than the general interests of all labor. These laws abrogate one of the most important privileges and immunities of American citizens — the rights of individual workers to enter into hiring contracts with willing employers on terms that are mutually acceptable. …
The principle of exclusive representation [collective bargaining], as provided for in the NLRA, should be repealed. Workers should be free on an individual basis to hire a union to represent them or not represent them. They should not be forced to do so by majority vote. Unions are private associations, not governments. For government to tell workers that they must allow a union to represent them is for government to violate workers’ freedom of association. Restrictions on the freedom of workers to choose who represents them should be eliminated.
- “Collective bargaining gives unions the exclusive right to speak for covered workers, many of whom may disagree with the views of the monopoly union.”
- “Which two have done more to improve your life — Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, or Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi?”
- “A temporarily frozen debt limit could instead signal U.S. lawmakers’ resolve to get our fiscal house in order. It may even reassure investors about long‐term U.S. economic prospects.”
- “What makes Americans exceptional is our ornery resistance to being bossed around.”
- Senator Bob Corker (R‑Tenn.) spoke recently at a Cato forum on fiscal policy about the CAP Act – here’s an excerpt of his remarks:
- “Since Congress has not declared war on Libya, is American involvement in the Libyan war unconstitutional?”
- A year later, Obamacare still faces bipartisan opposition.
- Public sector unions have awakened a sleeping giant.
- It is irrelevant which way public broadcasting tilts–the problem is that it tilts at all.
- Cato founder and president Ed Crane made a rare media appearance yesterday, joining talk radio host Neal Boortz to discuss Libya and…well, a bunch of other things:
I present you Robert Laszewski’s magnificent take on ObamaCare and Wisconsin, Democrats and Republicans.
Earlier this month, President Obama’s HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took to the Washington Post’s op‐ed page to reassure everybody that ObamaCare “puts states in the driver’s seat” and “gives states incredible freedom to tailor reforms to their needs.”
One grows weary of exposing the brazen falsehoods this administration incessantly and unconscionably peddles about its corrupt, unconstitutional, and irredeemable health care law. But here I go again: the very idea that ObamaCare puts states in the driver’s seat is nonsense. States already had the power to enact all the taxes, mandates, and price controls that ObamaCare expects them to implement — and to make what few choices ObamaCare leaves them.
If you want to know what Incredible Freedom really means, look to Wisconsin, where President Obama — who is evidently bored with the federal budget — has inserted himself into a state budget dispute, as David Boaz has noted.
As it turns out, Incredible Freedom means you are free to do exactly what President Obama wants.
The Washington Post reports on talk of federal bailouts for states (like Wisconsin) that are struggling with huge deficits and unfunded liabilities in their state pension and retiree health care programs. However:
The White House has dismissed such speculation, saying states have the wherewithal to raise taxes, cut programs and renegotiate employee contracts to balance their books.
A startling admission. Perhaps someone in the White House can pull Sebelius aside and explain that states also had the wherewithal to enact all the “reforms” that ObamaCare imposed on them. States already were “in the driver’s seat. They already had the power “to tailor reforms to their needs.”
Then along came ObamaCare.
In a story titled, “Federal government upping pay, seniority to lure skilled workers from private sector,” the Washington Business Journal notes:
“Government contractors are losing their upper hand in hiring and retaining the best and brightest former feds, as several economic forces under way hint at a potential mass migration from the private sector to public service.…
‘Government employment is growing more attractive during the economic downturn because it brings job security and the comprehensive benefits that a lot of private sector firms are doing away with,’ said Alan Balutis, director of Cisco Systems Inc.‘s Internet Business Solutions Group.”
Aside from adding evidence to my overpaid federal worker thesis, the article suggests trouble for the broader economy if more high‐skill workers are running to the government for safe refuge. Federal hiring of the best and brightest imposes an “opportunity cost” on the economy by drawing talented people away from higher‐valued activities in the private sector.
It is true that the relative economic harm is less when we are comparing, for example, hiring in‐house computer experts to support wasteful farm subsidy activities, or whether we contract‐out farm subsidy computer support to, say, Cisco.
So first we should downsize the government to its proper areas of responsibility, thereby releasing hundreds of thousands of smart people to engage in market‐based activities. Then we should contract out the remaining core government activities if it makes economic sense.
Hat Tip: Bill Erickson