Right-To-Work Unionism? — The American Magazine
Union advocates dislike the ‘right-to-work’ movement and right-to-work advocates abhor traditional unions. There is another way forward.
In Romeo and Juliet two young lovers sought togetherness in spite of the hostilities between their families. Their challenge was trivial compared to the idea of uniting the “right-to-work” family and the “unionism” family in U.S. labor relations. Truth be told, traditional union advocates are contemptuous of what the “right-to-work” movement represents, and right-to-work advocates are contemptuous of what the traditional union movement represents. Their respective crusaders in elected office have adopted those views almost as if they were religious dogma.
This need not be so in matters as worldly as economic organization, however. The mutual contempt is grounded in a specific legal and organizational regime. But that regime could, and should, be radically changed. There is one good feature of collective bargaining by labor in the 21st century: it levels the playing field in bargaining power between economic returns to capital and returns to labor. On the other side of the ideological divide, the quintessential insight of the right-to-work movement is that the wide-ranging union rights, rules, and customs that developed under the National Labor Relations Act strangle both companies and individual workers.
So it’s worth asking if we can attempt and indeed achieve more than the Montague and Capulet families—especially since the offspring in this case is the American economy. The essence of what is needed is to eliminate public sector unions and reform private sector unionism. How to do this and merge the best features of each labor relations ideology first requires consideration of a bit of political and economic history.