Saturday, April 05, 2014

RTW: A Right to... What?

RTW: A Right to... What?
Threading your way out of a tangled web can be... painful, and heated. I'd wanted to get a few more posts in on Progress vs. Regress before turning to 'Right To Work', but I'm too slow and the time is here now. But before getting to the RTW bill Missouri is in the midst of debating, or what I think about it, let me make clear my position on Politics and on Unions.

Politics: I'm not here to aid or support anyone, or any bill, or any policy in any election, or in any other pursuit for that matter. I'm here to present the ideas I've learned to be true, ideas I believe are important to people's lives, ideas which I think that a person who values their life should be aware of and understand. The core of these ideas are what made America possible in the first place and which neither it nor liberty can continue for long without. It's been said that 'Politics is downstream of Culture', which is very true, but Culture is itself downstream from the ideas which it is formed from. If you don't alter or deepen the ideas which the people of a culture are thinking or are even willing to consider, then you won't change the culture, and that, the ideas our culture is aware of, is the target I use this blog to aim at. True, there is circulation between the two, but simply presenting yourself more fashionably or being more 'edgy', won't accomplish a damn thing.

Unions: The heart and soul of the union, the central idea they were originally formed around and which they are battling to maintain, or even strengthen today, is that they are an organization designed to get what they have no right to, in order to exercise power upon all. The first victims explicitly targeted by Unions are those they claim to want to 'represent': the worker. Their first actions are not taken against the rich, but towards intimidating those workers who aren't inclined to join them, into their membership against their will. Only once enough of the workforce has been pressed into their ranks, do they then turn their tender attentions to 'the rich', using the workers they claim to represent, as tools of intimidation in order to rob 'the rich' and the worker of their right to make their own decisions, neatly gaining power over them all.

Whatever guise they hide behind, 'Trade Union' or otherwise, I despise them all. Sure, some good things may have resulted from actions unions have taken, no doubt some good things have come from the Mafia as well. I'm not impressed by such 'good deeds' and give them no credit because of them.

And yes I know, everyone knows someone in unions who are just swell. My Brother in Law spent a couple decades in a union. My Wife is in a union. Because they had the choice to join their union? No. Because they were compelled to join a union. Whatever good it is that you want to chalk up to unions, I can show one or more evils that have been condoned and accepted into society to accomplish that 'good', and which compounds the initial evil done. That they have been legalized, simply means that the Law has been perverted into protecting thuggery.

Unions are the embodiment of 'Might Makes Right' and few things are more Pro-Regressive than that. I detest them for what they actually are, not for who might be in them or what good might appear to have resulted from them. Anything that hinders them, I'm for. Anything that can legitimately be done to limit their power, or to dissolve them from the American landscape, I am for.

That being said, it is difficult to be a whole hearted supporter of RTW, as the position we are in is too like having to use Romney to vote against Obama, and far too familiar for us on the Right; but no, it's not an unprincipled vote and yes, we've got to do it. But. Is it possible to take a principled stand on ground that has already been rendered unprincipled? Care must be taken. The distastefulness is not just because of the bill itself, but because of the deforming federal laws it must 'respect', and because of the approach the GOP has taken to sell it. And to understand why that is, we need to know some of the background behind it.

RTW? How about a Right to Rights?!
Firstly, and probably least in the minds of supporters of RTW, I object to the Utopian title: "Right To Work". Why? Take a moment and think about what it presumes and what it neglects. A hint as to the problem in Missouri's bill, is in a comment Michigan's Gov. made upon a similar bill:
"Gov. Rick Snyder, who took a hit in popularity polls after he pushed for right-to-work, has said the law “isn’t about being anti-union,” but is “about being pro-worker.”"
Anyone notice the vital party neglected by that comment upon employment? Yep, the employer. This is Law we're talking about. Laws which directly affect the rights and livelihoods of all Americans, and at the very least, for a law to be 'Pro' one side or the other, is to slight the rights of some - minority or majority matters not in the least - the result is to undermine the rights of all. It is either 'One nation, under law', or one group pitched against another, for the benefit of yet another.

But more fundamentally, I object to the term 'Right To Work' because there is no 'right to work', and there cannot be. It is a Utopian and self contradictory term. What do I mean? To claim that there is a 'Right To Work', means that someone, somewhere, somehow, at some point in time, must be compelled to provide jobs as an end in itself, and so those providing the jobs cannot have full political rights themselves, and so no one in that utopia can have Rights, or at least not Rights as understood to be inherent in their nature as human beings, and that leaves only privileges. Privileges bestowed upon some, by those with the power to compel the material of them from others.

There can be no 'Right to Work' and Individual Rights.

Secondly, the strategy used to promote RTW laws disturbs me. The GOP approach is to focus on jobs:
"The arguments surrounding right to work center on economic issues and fairness. Supporters point to greater job growth in the states, mostly in the South, with right-to-work laws. Opponents counter that these states also have lower wages."
What's disturbing about that? It's because arguments that focus primarily on results, on statistics, in this case economic issues and fairness, or in ObamaCare's focus on the uninsured and fairness, disregard or minimize the Rights of those involved and the principles that must be fully respected for those rights to have any real meaning and power under law.

That, I find disturbing.

Do RTW states experience a rise in wages? Pardon me, but I don't really give a rat's ass whether they do or not! Do their people - employers, employees and those they choose to associate with - experience the ability to exercise their rights to make their own decisions, while respecting the rights of others to do the same? If they do, then their wages will more closely reflect the values that they've produced - and in the context of exercising power over people, I don't care about anything else, and govt sure as hell shouldn't be freed to either.

What's that? You think it does matter?

Let me ask you this: Do you believe people should be paid more than the monetary value their efforts have produced? Yes? You are for 'something for nothing'? Then you, left or right, are the embodiment of the Marxist ideal of 'greedy capitalists' which they've successfully branded the Free Market with (Thanks Schools!). If you are alright with that, then please, go find your position on the proRegressive left. Don't worry, they'll make room for you, as soon as you make it clear you have no principles but those of convenience, they'll find the right group to fit you in with.

The actual issue here is do people have the right to form businesses, do individuals - business owner and employee and organizations - still retain one of the few rights included in the original un-amended Constitution, the right to contract? Do business owners have the right to make the decisions required to operate their businesses? Do the potential employees have the right to accept or decline? Do others have the right to form associations and offer their services to both? (See the various versions of skilled worker placement/consultants/project mgmt companies which populate the tech industry. No reason why the same wouldn't work in the blue color industries that unions prey upon... except that they aren't free to, of course)

Or more succinctly: Do people have the right to live their own lives, or not?

Not a litmus test
Don't get yourself into a tizzy, I'm not setting up a 'with me or against me' litmus test over RTW legislation. In spirit I'm wholeheartedly in favor of what I think the spirit of RTW bills are (which adds up to way more spirit over material fact than I'm comfortable with in any law... but leave that aside for a moment). And yes, the Unions are opposed to this bill, which will likely have a large impact on their ever diminishing power. Good on that. My natural urge is to swallow the bile rising in my throat and back anything, such as RTW, that reduces the power and place of unions, and I think any conservative is naturally going to want to side with RTW laws. In fact, I would assume sight unseen, that any Republican politician that is opposed to RTW, probably found their position more by calculating the electoral votes of union members against the rights of the rest of their constituents, than by a consideration of principles. Sure, there may be some who actually do oppose RTW upon principle, but before accepting their word on that, I'd suggest taking a look at their other votes first, such as on Smoking Ban's, Common Core, Medicaid expansion, and sweet business/govt partnership deals like 'Aerotropolis/China Hub', etc. And then I'd ask them to take a closer look at their principles as a whole, and what they are for - more on that in a bit.

But there is a reason why RTW makes the bile rise in my throat, which a closer look at the bill itself, House Bill 1770 should make clear:
290.591. 1. Except in instances when this section conflicts with or is preempted by federal law, no person shall be required as a condition or continuation of employment to:
(1) Become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization;
(2) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges, however denominated, of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
(3) Pay to any charity or other third party any amount equivalent to, or on a pro rata basis, any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization, in lieu of the payments listed under subdivision (2) of this subsection.
2. Any agreement, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed, between any labor organization and employer that violates the rights of employees as guaranteed under this section is declared to be unlawful, null and void, and of no legal effect.
Now take a look at this portion of the first line again:
" person as a condition or continuation of employment can be required to..."
, 'can be required', by who? By the person who is offering them a position of employment in their business, the employer, that's who. Why would they not have the right to make an offer of employment on terms which they judged best for their business? Notice that the bill doesn't say that:
'No business owner shall be compelled to offer as a condition or continuation of employment, a requirement that'
Now let me ask you this: What of a business owner, who, for reasons that would be entirely unfathomable to me, wants his business to be a 'Union Shop'?

Does he not have the right to operate his business as he sees fit? Do you see the problem? Why would we want a law further restricting the liberty of employers? It not only infringes upon the rights of the business owner, but does even further damage to the already battered shell of Property Rights (without which no Rights can have any substance) that are still remaining to us.

If you ask the legislators why they've written their bill this way, there response will probably be that federal law compels them to, and those few who aren't just repeating the talking points that'll keep the union vote happy, would likely direct your attention back to the first line in their RTW Bill:
290.591. 1. Except in instances when this section conflicts with or is preempted by federal law
, and the 'preempted by federal law' refers to lines such as these, from the NLRB which forbids businesses:
"(a)(2) "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it"
, and,
"(5) to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his employees, subject to the provisions of section 159 (a) of this title." "
So on one side we have the union promoting legislation already on the books, which forbids business owners from using their own judgment and forces them to 'bargain' with unions, while on the other 'Pro-Worker!' side we have 'Right to Work' laws, which forbids business owners from using their own judgment and forces them to not have a full union shop. The result is that The Law is being used to prevent a business owner from having any say in some of the most critical decisions which their businesses face on a daily basis.

Heads you lose. Tails you lose. Wanna flip again?

Do you know what the worst part is? This is the best and most 'Rights' promoting option available to us today, and it is so because of laws such as the 'Wagner Act' (which created the National Labor Relations Board) that 'Progressive Democrats' placed on the books 70+ years ago during FDR's terms, and which the GOP 'fixed' a few years afterwards with 'Taft-Hartley' when they regained power.

What the Briton said of the Romans: "They make a desert and call it peace", might be said of our bi-partisan govt: "They eliminate an employers rights, and call it a Right To Work.".

How'd we get here? The easy way, of course.
Because our laws have already been corrupted, any new laws must make allowances for that corruption, in order to try and make... ehm, progress. How did we get here? By allowing Pro-Regressives to pass off a position that was actually pro-regress, as 'progress', and because the GOP didn't stand for Principle, but ran on poll tested tactics (as they are still doing today), they missed out on the fact that FDR's position wasn't just a modification of the business to employee relationship, but an elimination of the Right to there even being such a thing. But of course the original spin-meister, FDR, dressed it up a bit nicer than that, as he said of the Wagner Act on July 5, 1935:
“A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife. By preventing practices which tend to destroy the independence of labor, it seeks, for every worker within its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his.”
Understand, the Supreme Court had already struck down FDR's previous attempt at legislating such a 'Labor Relations Board', so FDR did then, what today's President Obama recently did: he intimidated the court. FDR threatened to pack the court with new appointees to get his way, and the conservative court, then under Hughes, as in our day under Roberts, caved to executive intimidation and approved it, a tactic forever known as the 'Switch in time that saved nine'. However, in a previous case on nearly identical legislation, the court struck it down, saying that setting up such labor relations boards was:
"...The effect, in respect of wages and hours, is to subject the dissentient minority, either of producers or miners or both, to the will of the stated majority, since, by refusing to submit, the minority at once incurs the hazard of enforcement of the drastic compulsory provisions of the act to which we have referred. To "accept," in these circumstances, is not to exercise a choice, but to surrender to force.

The power conferred upon the majority is, in effect, the power to regulate the affairs of an unwilling minority. This is legislative delegation in its most obnoxious form, for it is not even delegation to an official or an official body, presumptively disinterested, but to private persons whose interests may be and often are adverse to the interests of others in the same business. ..."
No matter what subsequent Supreme Court decisions ruled, that is still at the heart of Union power as imposed upon us today, and my natural urge is to do the only thing that seems left to do, and that's back anything, such as RTW.

But the real problem here is the Right's seemingly instinctive resignation to half-measures and our toleration of 'what else can we do?' approaches.

It is not only easy to make the 'pragmatic' case for such laws and actions, but in some sense it is necessary because once pragmatism has been allowed in, principle is necessarily forced out of the door, and it has been - so what else can you do? There is something more we can do, and it doesn't mean rejecting the distasteful steps we do have to take right now, but it does require insisting that those steps be part of a more clearly defined destination - which I'll come back to shortly.

Is that not the same refrain we hear from establishment republicans against ObamaCare today?

Well it's nothing new, in fact it is nearly as old as the modern left and has defined the GOP response to every Democrat gain since FDR, even when they themselves are the party in power! The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, was the perpetual short term half measure that the GOP proposed because it didn't have the guts to toss out the Wagner Act altogether. Eyes forever on the polls, even once they've secured the power to do what they campaigned on doing, they sought only to weaken Union power, and even that was only effected on the surface. An adviser to the Senators proposing Taft-Hartley warned them against such half-hearted 'what else can we do' measures, warning that if such 'Right To Work' measures were passed, instead of repealing the Wagner Act outright:
" ...Greaves was closely involved in the issue. At the request of Sen. Robert A. Taft in 1946, he helped draft a precursor to Taft-Hartley. According to Greaves, union activity had caused the Wagner Act to fall out of favor with the public. Taft wanted an ameliorative bill that would win enough votes to override a veto by President Harry Truman — in another words, a watered-down bill. Then, after the Republicans won the White House and Congress in 1948, they would pass a better law.
Greaves “opposed this thinking on the basis that it would be better not to have any new law at that time[, contending] that a successful veto of a better law would result in a growing public pressure for the repeal of the Wagner Act and the election of the party that espoused such a move. The senator was not willing to go that far.” Greaves feared that “if the senator’s plan were successful, the public would be persuaded that the then evident economic distress flowing from union activity had been remedied and the next tide of public opinion might well be in the other direction.”
Taft disagreed, and Greaves left the Senate committee. “Freedom … lost,” Greaves wrote looking back, because once Taft-Hartley passed, the pressure on the Wagner Act disappeared...
[Emphasis mine]
Today, nearly 70 years later, we are still taking such palatable, ultimately self defeating measures. The Right is talked into proposing measures which don't repeal the legislative acts which are the real cause of the problem, and always with the promise of "after the next election, we'll 'pass a better law'". The fact is that Taft-Hartley didn't reduce the unions power, but only consolidated it, as this, from the introduction to a book of economist Henry Hazlitt's essays during that time, points out:
"... Taft-Hartley emerged as the conservative counterweight to the Wagner regime, the product of a Republican-dominated 80th Congress elected in 1946 in response to post-war inflation, excessive government controls, and historic levels of labor strife. Passed by an alliance of anti-labor Republicans and Southern Democrats, Taft-Hartley did not roll back, so much as circumscribe, New Deal labor law. It retained the process of collective bargaining supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, but outlawed wildcat strikes, secondary boycotts, and the closed shop. It prohibited both management and labor from engaging in “practices which [sic] jeopardize the public health, safety, or interest” and required anti-communist affidavits from all unionists. Moreover, it authorized the president to intervene in strikes that threatened national security and enabled individual states to pass “right-to-work” laws outlawing exclusive union shops...."
IOW it had given monopoly control over unionized workers to one union in a shop, whether or not the owner of that shop wanted them there, or even whether any other employee might have preferred another union to represent them. Republicans are heading the very same road with ObamaCare and Medicaid Expansion, such as Missouri sleazeball State Sen. Ryan Silvey has proposed doing, and no doubt 70 years from now our grand-kids will be proposing some sort of 'Right To Prescriptions' laws because of it.

This relentless GOP retreat of 'do what we can' half-measures, with no wider strategy having been defined or committed to, not only does not succeed, but they cannot succeed. While such short term efforts may be necessary, in the short term, to adopt them as our overall strategy, as the GOP has been doing for decades, is suicide.

This isn't about Business vs Labor, but about the inconvenient Rights of both - inconvenient to the established powers that be who just want to tend their power gardens, grooming them sometimes to appeal to the Left, and sometimes to the Right, but always producing a bumper crop of incumbents for the benefit of each. Also keep in mind that politically influential business 'interests' were very much behind the 'Wagner Act' to begin with, because they thought it'd make it easier on their businesses by helping to promote cooler headed unions over the real radicals ('Big Business' is almost always as opposed to a Free Market as the radical Left is)... and they've continued to split the difference between Individual Rights and their own interests ever since.

How do we get a right to our Rights back?
RTW does curb the power of unions. But. But it also increases the power of Govt. RTW as written, reduces the grip Unions have on workers, but it does so by increasing Govt's power over business owners, which in the end, means over all of us. It's hard not to hear Gandalf reading in the background: 'One Ring to rule them all...', right?

So where does that leave us?

In about the same place that Richard Nixon & Teddy Kennedy's HMO bill left health care back in 1973. It leaves us in that place where every attempt to improve the situation, necessarily restricts our liberty even further, compounds our problems, and hastens the time where an ObamaCare-type solution will be proposed to 'fix' it.

So what do you do when placed in a position of choosing between two evils?


First, recognize that sometimes acting 'on principle' can be unprincipled behavior. Principles are an aid to thinking, not a substitute for it, and used imprudently, can do more harm than good. When you find yourself in a place where no good choices are possible, that doesn't mean that you make no choice at all, it means that you widen your perspective and clarify your goals.

Choose instead, where there is a choice to be made, that which causes the least damage to your liberty, and the most damage to the forces arrayed against you - and do NOT accept that as your only or final option. The confused morals of our current laws makes measures such as RTW necessary, but we can and must do more to make it only an inconvenient step, rather than a destination of moral compromise.

Widen your perspective - as the situation stands now, our govt has already asserted its right to compel business owners to do what it wants... 'for the greater good'; it has done so in the 'Wagner Act', and 'Taft-Hartley' and Medicaid and so many other laws since, all the way up to ObamaCare, that this... this is just one more lash in a thousand stripes across our backs. So, sad to say, it is not unreasonable to see that adding yet another layer of restrictions upon us, is like painting an '11' on the volume knob - a distinction which makes no further difference. More to the point, for those thinking that not voting for RTW will somehow leave business owners free to conduct their business without govt interference - that's damn near delusional. Isn't it? So please, remember how laughable that argument is if someone makes it to you.

On the other hand, RTW does limit unions access to our fellows, it will limit the power of unions over the workforce, it will reduce their power in our society, and so on that basis, I do see a more solid strike for liberty being made by voting for RTW, than the strike which RTW itself makes against our liberty.

But having made that painful calculus, the only way to prevent it from becoming a choice of lesser evils, is to NOT accept that as your only or final option. You must have a long term goal, a long term strategy to get the Right to our Rights back. We've got to be looking to strike at the real political root, and that isn't unions, but those acts which gave them power over us, such as the 'Wagner Act' and 'Taft-Hartley'. And measures such as this, a 'States Repeal Act', which I'll dig much deeper into in later posts, is one way to enable RTW states to do just that, and help get back the right to our Rights.

For myself, keeping in mind that Politics is downstream of Culture, and that Culture is downstream of the arena of Ideas, I'm keeping my efforts focused there. For the Culture to come around to the idea that restricting liberty doesn't increase it, and to understand why that is, then the ideas which make liberty a conclusion, rather than a starting point, need to be aired, and discussed, and understood. And that's what I attempt to do with this blog. Air the ideas which we as a culture must breathe in, for Liberty to regrow its roots within us. As those ideas become more commonly understood, then our culture will tear out  abominations such as the 'Wagner Act', and the 'Affordable Care Act', root and branch.

So I will support RTW, as one distasteful step in a long journey, while keeping my eyes on the real goal, one which results in real liberty for all.


Anonymous said...

With all employers a condition of ones employment is abiding by house rules. I found too many of those rules to be “unwritten” so I went into business for myself. But now we have corporations swinging government favors so often that small business owners wind up paying their taxes.

If the small business owners of America banded together to try and stop this process, would it be a form of “Unionization”?

Van Harvey said...

"If the small business owners of America banded together to try and stop this process, would it be a form of “Unionization”?"

No, it would be a form of voluntary association and self preservation!