POV: Have Gun, Will Nudge
by Ayn Rand | March 1962
It's Not the Unions — It's the Labor Laws
by Doug Altner | March 19, 2014
Regulatory Strangulation
by Steve Simpson | March 13, 2014
Obamacare creates a new class of free riders
by Rituparna Basu | January 23, 2014
Obamacare Is Suffocating An Already Sick Health Insurance Patient
by Rituparna Basu | January 22, 2014
The Broken State of American Health Insurance Prior to the Affordable Care Act: A Market Rife with Government Distortion
by Rituparna Basu | January 21, 2014
Obamacare is Really, Really Bad for You, Especially If You're Young
by Rituparna Basu | August 21, 2013
Justice Department should let US Airways & American Airlines merger proceed
by Tom Bowden | August 16, 2013
Why Is Apple Inc. On Trial? For Good Behavior, It Turns Out
by Tom Bowden | June 20, 2013
The Forgotten Man of the Minimum-Wage Debate
by Doug Altner | June 19, 2013
Why Delivering Beer Isn’t Easy
by Doug Altner | June 11, 2013
What Explains GM’s Problems With The UAW?
by Doug Altner | May 20, 2013
What Are The Search Results When You Google ‘Antitrust’?
by Tom Bowden | April 18, 2013
To Protect the Defenseless, We Must Abolish the Minimum Wage
by Don Watkins | March 27, 2013
I’ll Buy My Own Contraception, Thanks
by Rituparna Basu | November 13, 2012
Why The Glass-Steagall Myth Persists
by Yaron Brook | November 12, 2012
Why Ayn Rand’s Absence From Last Thursday’s Debate Benefits Big Government
by Yaron Brook | October 15, 2012
Changing the Debate: How to Move from an Entitlement State to a Free Market
by Don Watkins | July 02, 2012
3 Things Everyone Needs to Know About the Apple Antitrust Case
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What's Really Wrong with Entitlements
by Don Watkins | February 21, 2012
The Entitlement State Is Morally Bankrupt
by Don Watkins | September 13, 2011
How Important Is the Obamacare Litigation?
by Tom Bowden | August 12, 2011
Atlas Shrugged: With America on the Brink, Should You “Go Galt” and Strike?
by Onkar Ghate | April 29, 2011
The Road to Socialized Medicine Is Paved With Pre-existing Conditions (Part 3)
by Yaron Brook | April 06, 2011
The Road to Socialized Medicine Is Paved with Pre-existing Conditions (Part 2)
by Yaron Brook | March 10, 2011
In Defense of Finance
by Yaron Brook | February 15, 2011
The Road to Socialized Medicine Is Paved with Pre-existing Conditions
by Yaron Brook | February 10, 2011
The Avastin Travesty
by Tom Bowden | December 12, 2010
Apple Now Targeted for Success Like Microsoft Was in the 1990s
by Tom Bowden | October 04, 2010
The Un-American Dream
by Don Watkins | August 27, 2010
What About Private Health Emergencies?
by Tom Bowden | April 08, 2010
What’s Really Driving the Toyota Controversy?
by Don Watkins | March 26, 2010
Anti-Smoking Paternalism: A Cancer on American Liberty
by Don Watkins | March 06, 2010
Apple vs. GM: Ayn Rand Knew the Difference. Do You?
by Don Watkins | March 02, 2010
Smash the Labor Monopolies!
by Tom Bowden | September 15, 2009
America’s Unfree Market
by Yaron Brook | May 2009
Atlas Shrugged and the Housing Crisis that Government Built
by Yaron Brook | March 2009
The Green Energy Fantasy
by Keith Lockitch | February 25, 2009
Stop Blaming Capitalism for Government Failures
by Yaron Brook | November 13, 2008
The Resurgence of Big Government
by Yaron Brook | Fall 2008
The Government Did It
by Yaron Brook | July 18, 2008
From Flat World To Free World
by Yaron Brook | June 26, 2008
How Government Makes Disasters More Disastrous
by Tom Bowden | April 29, 2008
Life And Taxes
by Yaron Brook | April 17, 2008
War On Free Political Speech
by Yaron Brook | March 21, 2008
To Stimulate The Economy, Liberate It
by Yaron Brook | February 14, 2008
Exploiters vs. Victims in the Grocery Strike
by Elan Journo | January 30, 2004
Prescription Drug Benefits Violate the Rights of Drug Companies
by Onkar Ghate | July 24, 2002
Drop the Antitrust Case Against Microsoft
by Onkar Ghate | March 17, 2002


Government And Business in Voice for Reason
Government & BusinessRegulations

It's Not the Unions — It's the Labor Laws

by Doug Altner | March 19, 2014 | American Thinker

Despite two years of courting by the United Auto Workers union, Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently rejected UAW representation in a 712 to 626 vote. This is a major blow to organized labor, whose numbers are dwindling. “When you see what the UAW did in Detroit, you have to worry about what it will do here,” says Mike Burton, a leader among VW workers who opposed the union.

Burton’s distrust of the UAW reflects the broader history of union antagonism toward businesses. Unions are infamous for bogging down businesses with counterproductive work rules, damaging industries with frequent strikes, instilling an “us versus them” attitude among employees, and strong-arming employers into giving more and more raises and benefits regardless of the long-term consequences to the company.

Why can unions get away with such hostility?

Unions per se are not the problem, but it is a problem that labor laws grant unions coercive powers they wouldn’t otherwise have. If labor relations were completely voluntary, then business leaders would not be forced to submit to unreasonable demands from unions, and business leaders and employees would be protected from union interference and harassment if they choose to work in a nonunionized environment.

Today, however, the government does not protect employers from such things. Instead, it forces employers to deal with unions through the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 — also known as the Wagner Act. This law forces business leaders to recognize a union as an exclusive bargaining agent if the union gets enough votes, forbids them from disassociating with any union, and legally requires them to negotiate with such unions “in good faith,” as determined by National Labor Relations Board judges.

In practice, the Wagner Act allows unions to make unreasonable demands, and forces business leaders to choose between caving in to some of these demands and facing costly and time-consuming litigation. Hence, the United Steel Workers can strong-arm steelmakers into accepting work rules that require several men to complete tasks that could easily be done by one. The UAW can pressure Chrysler into reinstating employees who were fired for drinking alcohol and smoking pot on the job. The International Longshoremen’s Association — a union of dockworkers — can get away with threatening to shut down ports across the East Coast if shippers ceased paying “container royalties,” which are essentially bribes paid to union workers since the 1960s in exchange for not fighting the introduction of shipping containers. The Bakers’ Union can refuse to work out a mutually agreeable solution with Hostess, despite the dire realities of the company’s financial situation, and instead push the whole company to liquidate. For many businesses, having a union means being trapped in a relationship with a partner who can be utterly shameless about seeing how much they can get away with at your expense.

And unions wield their government-granted coercive power against employees. They can force all employees to pay union dues, even the ones who strongly object to the union’s goals, policies, and attitude. The International Association of Machinists — a union representing Boeing employees in Washington State — can try to legally forbid Boeing from giving manufacturing jobs to nonunion workers in South Carolina, by agitating for an NLRB lawsuit. The United Food and Commercial Workers can force the supermarket Giant Eagle to rescind pay raises it gave to outstanding employees, demanding they be compensated the same as those who don’t go the extra mile.

In a world in which labor relationships were completely voluntary, unions would have to work with employers if they want to be welcome in a factory, and they would have to offer values to employees if they need to retain members. But today, because the government forces businesses to deal with them, unions can get away with antagonizing employers and employees.

The rejection of the UAW in Chattanooga should prompt us to recognize how coercive labor laws can allow a union to poison relationships between business and labor.

About The Author

Doug Altner

Doug Altner was an analyst and instructor at the Ayn Rand Institute between 2011 and 2014.