The socialist and progressive agenda is largely grounded in coercion and compulsion rather than freedom. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” prescription, for instance, would ban private, consensual medical transactions, essentially making criminals out of both individuals who evade the government-run system and the doctors who treat them.
This authoritarian instinct is also readily apparent in efforts by leftist Democrats to re-invigorate the labor movement.
Sen. Kamala Harris, polling in the high single digits in the crowded Democratic presidential field, blew through Nevada this week to address a convention of AFL-CIO delegates on Wednesday. Among her priorities when it comes to organized labor, a press release notes, are initiatives that would increase penalties on companies that try to prevent employees from unionizing, the nomination of labor-friendly judges and collective bargaining for federal workers.
But the centerpiece of her labor platform is forced unionization. Sen. Harris, like many of her Democratic colleagues also favors a federal law that would outlaw the “right-to-work” movement.
Nevada is one of 27 states with a right-to-work law, preventing non-members from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. In contrast, states without such laws may allow “closed shop” or “union shop” arrangements, under which a worker must either be a union member or eventually become one in order to remain employed.
Right-to-work laws appear to be a significant factor when businesses opt to expand or relocate. A 2018 report by NERA Economic Consulting found that “businesses tend to locate in right-to-work states, as evidenced by more rapid growth of firms and establishments.” In addition, between 2001 and 2016, right-to-work locales had higher employment rates, larger manufacturing outputs and greater personal income boosts than states without such laws.
Putting aside the economic debate, however, the central issue regarding right-to-work remains the freedom of workers to make their own choices. The concepts of freedom of contract and association are vital to the functioning of a healthy democratic republic. Mandating that workers join organizations against their will or support causes they oppose through compulsory union fees should be anathema in a free society.
Liberty demands that workers be free to unionize as they see fit. But it likewise demands that labor organizations respect the rights of employees who want no part of a union. It’s just as wrong to outlaw unions as it is for the state to make union membership obligatory.
It’s too bad Sen. Harris and her fellow progressives would so cavalierly sacrifice basic individual freedoms in order to appease their generous union benefactors.