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Affluent Investor | April 28, 2017

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Unions Resort To Election Trickery In Grubby Efforts At Maximizing Their Legal Plunder

Union March

On the ballot Tuesday in two states (Washington and South Dakota) voters will find deceptive initiatives to vote on. Both were concocted by the forces of Big Labor for the purpose of getting and keeping more money from workers who don’t want to pay them.

Businesses that operate in a competitive market under the rule of law need to persuade consumers to buy whatever goods and services they offer. That’s good: consumers get to decide what’s worth parting with their money and what isn’t. Also, buyers are free to stop buying any time they become dissatisfied or discover better uses for their limited money.

Labor unions, however, don’t operate under the rules of voluntary agreement that apply to all other private organizations, for-profit and non-profit. Starting in the 1930s, they were given the unique power to coerce people into accepting their representation and paying for it. Yes, the unionization process is democratic (as if majority rule is always appropriate), but millions of workers are in unions that were last voted on more than 50 years ago. If you doubt that, read Akash Chougule’s article “A Union Card Shouldn’t be an Heirloom.”

Not content just to collect dues from employees of business firms, unions often flex their political muscles to get friendly politicians to dragoon workers who aren’t employees at all into union ranks. That tactic has been employed especially against individuals who receive government money to help provide home health care for relatives.

The coercive, grasping nature of unionism under the NLRA and pro-union state laws led to counterattacks in state legislatures and the courts. A majority of the states now have Right to Work (RTW) statutes, which protect workers in unionized businesses against being fired just because they decline to pay the dues demanded by union officials.

Some individuals exercise that freedom and when they do, the union collects less money than it otherwise would. The union bosses see that as an intolerable “leakage” of funds they want, and do all they can to stop RTW laws from being enacted and to have existing ones invalidated. (I discussed a strategy they have devised for accomplishing that in this August article.)

There has also been a counterattack in the courts against the brazen move to declare home workers union members so they’ll have to fork over some of their meager income to unions. The leading case is Harris v. Quinn, decided by the Supreme Court in 2014. The Court ruled against the high-handed moves by former Illinois governor Pat Quinn to force home health care workers into paying dues for nonexistent union “services.”(I wrote about Harris v. Quinn here and here.)

Union officials and their political friends never stop trying to plug these “revenue leaks” and this year have devised a couple of deceptive ballot initiatives to do so.

One is in South Dakota, which is a RTW state. In their October 23 Washington Examiner article, “Beware the squeegee men, South Dakota,” F. Vincent Vernuccio and Jeremy Lott discuss the cryptic wording of Measure 23. Its purpose, they explain is to give unions legal ground to argue that because they purport to provide services to employees who decline to pay dues, they are entitled to compensation.

Vernuccio and Lott liken that to the way “squeegee men” used to pounce on cars stopped in traffic to give drivers the service of cleaning their windshields and then demanding money in return. Mayor Giuliani put an end to such street harassment. But, write Vernuccio and Lott, “imagine a world in which the squeegee men were able to legally demand payment and there wasn’t one thing you could do about it.”

That’s what the unions want in South Dakota. When they provide their services for workers who don’t want them or value them any more than New York drivers wanted or valued the work of the squeegee men, they want legal power to compel them to pay anyway. It’s a covert attempt to undermine South Dakota’s RTW statute.

Vernuccio and Lott also discuss the jaded “free rider” argument that unions resort to, noting that if unions really find it too much of a burden to represent non-paying workers, they should support Worker Choice laws that would liberate them from having to do anything at all for those individuals. But since that’s a move back toward freedom, the unions would never go for it.

Big Labor is also running a ballot measure in Washington aimed at maximizing union money haul by stopping the dues leakage caused by Harris v. Quinn.

In an October 25 Wall Street Journal editorial, “The SEIU’s Ballot Fraud,”we learn about Big Labor’s scheme to get around both Harris and the state’s Public Records Act to keep an activist group from informing home workers that they have the right to stop paying union dues.

Following the Harris decision, the Freedom Foundation (a state policy think tank headquartered in Olympia), wanted to notify workers in Washington who were, like the plaintiffs in Harris, forced into the Service Employees International Union. The union fought back in court, trying to prevent the release of the names.

After losing all the way to the Supreme Court of Washington, the SEIU is now trying to get its way through an initiative called the Seniors and Vulnerable Individuals’ Safety and Financial Crimes Prevention Act. If enacted, it would block state officials from releasing information about the workers and thus preventing direct communications to inform them that they have the right to opt out of the SEIU.

Imagine the extraordinary expense that union bigwigs are happy to impose on others just so they can keep about 7,000 workers in the dark about their legal rights.

And as the WSJ editorial notes, seniors are already protected against identity theft under state law. The initiative is superfluous as far as its ostensible purpose goes.

The real but hidden purpose of the initiative is, of course, to enable the SEIU to continue engaging in what Frederic Bastiat accurately called “legal plunder” in his magnificent book The Law.

Labor unions might find ways of improving the lives of workers if they had to compete for their support and allegiance rather than resorting to coercion and political chicanery.

 

Originally published on Forbes.

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