NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Freedom of Association

January 28, 2013

Freedom of association is protected by the Constitution, a fact that unions frequently cite when anyone tries to restrict union privileges. However, there should be a limit on unions. Indeed, unions should only be able to exercise the same power collectively as an individual member of that union could exercise on his own, says Gary Galles, a professor of economics at Pepperdine University.

  • Government grants unions special privileges like monopoly representation, strike powers, exemptions from antitrust laws and union liability for member violence.
  • Current labor laws violate the freedom of workers to not associate with a particular union or its members and to associate with non-union employers in workplace cooperation.
  • The laws also violate the freedom of employers to not associate with unions and to associate only with workers who do not have any union involvement.

Freedom of association does not warrant these extra privileges or violations. Rights must be universal for them to be legitimate in our society. Employers do not enjoy the same benefits that unions with special privileges enjoy. For freedom of association to be truly universal, both employers and employees should be free to associate with whomever they choose -- or don't choose.

  • Many union members are forced to associate with that union and accept exclusive union representation based simply on a majority of workers voting to unionize.
  • Unions violate workers' freedom by reducing the time that employers have to make their case before a union is certified and by requiring workers to pay the union-dictated price for union services regardless of whether that worker voted for the union.
  • Unions force employers to deal and compromise with unions that are elected in certification elections.
  • Employers have no ability to deal with non-union workers and create "yellow-dog" contracts, though the Supreme Court once called this a constitutional right of personal liberty and private property.

Unions use freedom of association in defense of their actions while simultaneously ignoring that the same right should be exercised by employees and employers. American labor law morphs freedom of association into a justification for coercive collective bargaining that is utterly contradictory in constitutional terms.

Source: Gary Galles, "Unions: Freedom of Coercive Association," Foundation for Economic Education, January 8, 2013.


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