Saturday, April 25, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Should union organizing be a civil right?

Big Labor in the United States has been on the wane for decades. About 6.7 percent of American private-sector workers belonged to a union in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics. Public-sector union membership topped 35.3 percent.

Democrats in Congress would like to change that. A bill by Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, and John Lewis, D-Georgia, would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to make labor organizing a “fundamental right.” They argue that the law should make it easier for workers to band together against unfair treatment from employers.

Is the Ellison-Lewis legislation a way to level the free-speech playing field against corporations? Or would the law coerce workers into joining unions whether they like it or not? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the Red-Blue America columnists, weigh in.

Joel Mathis

Before we answer the question of whether union organizing should be covered as a First Amendment civil right, let’s consider who has seen such rights affirmed or expanded in recent years.

  • Corporations. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, corporations are now guaranteed the First Amendment “free speech” right to spend as much as they want to influence political campaigns. The ruling triggered a fierce backlash, but it remains in effect.
  • Hobby Lobby. The craft store may not have a soul of its own, but it is free to ignore federal laws that conflict with its owners’ religious beliefs, including the mandate that employers offer birth control as part of any health insurance plan they offer employees.
  • The rich. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down limits on how much an individual can spend during a campaign cycle, deeming the previous $123,000 limit an infringement on America’s essential freedoms.

What, exactly, would be the justification for leaving union organizers off this list? Aside, of course, from naked partisanship and class warfare waged from above.

Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit originated the idea of treating unionization as a civil right several years ago in a New York Times op-ed.

“Some might argue that the Civil Rights Act should be limited to discrimination based on immutable characteristics like race or national origin, not acts of volition,” they wrote. “But the act already protects against religious discrimination. Some local civil rights statutes even cover marital status, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, source of income, or place of residence or business.”

Corporations, in the end, are groups of individuals who have banded together for a specific purpose — usually profit. Unions are the same thing. They deserve the same rights as their richer colleagues. Of course union organizing is a civil right.

Ben Boychuk

Obviously union organizing is a First Amendment right. We can argue whether public-sector workers should be unionized, but nobody today disputes that private-sector employees have a right to form or join a labor union.

Freedom of assembly should be free. Shouldn’t that be indisputable, too?

Unions aren’t especially interested in workers freely choosing to join their ranks and pay dues. With membership dwindling and the legal tide turning, they need government protection to remain viable. The “civil right” labor organizers seek is really a new right to coerce workers into membership whether they want it or not.

It’s not as though unions don’t have extensive legal rights and protections right now. The National Labor Relations Act effectively enshrined the right to collective bargaining 79 years ago. Subsequent laws exempted unions from most trespassing and anti-monopoly laws, as well as whistleblower protections.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Enmons decision even carved out a union exception from federal racketeering and extortion laws. Incredibly, five justices endorsed the view that economic gain through violence is permissible when unions seek “legitimate” objectives. Thousands of acts of union thuggery, intimidation and assault have gone unpunished as a result.

Liberals appear happy to endorse the principle of freedom of association until it runs afoul of their more beloved shibboleths. Then a corporation such as Hobby Lobby – for which exactly no one is compelled to work – becomes Public Enemy No. 1. Then a court decision like Citizens United – which, contra President Barack Obama, did not undo “a century of law” – becomes the worst assault on American democracy since Dred Scott.

Truth is, labor unions are failing the basic test of survival in the marketplace of ideas. Workers are no longer buying what Big Labor is selling.

Freedom of workers to organize? More like freedom of unions to extract more dues. This isn’t about civil rights – it’s a license to commit extortion.

Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis ([email protected]) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/benandjoel.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 11 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • DanielAugust 01, 2014 - 6:43 am

    Workers should have a civil right not to forced to join organizations nor have a chunk of their check be forcibly absconded

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • truth'nAugust 01, 2014 - 9:24 am

    Daniel, that right is already in place. There is no such thing as a "closed shop". No one is forced to join a union except by other members pressure. More people need to be aware of this and exercise this right. Unions are nothing but another business. Union members take note: You CBA is between the "company" & "union", Your Name is not in it anywhere. Do not be fooled, the "union" protects only those it chooses.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JimboAugust 01, 2014 - 4:09 pm

    No one is forced to take a job at a union shop "Daniel". Move along with this ridiculous victimhood mentality.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Anne GriffinAugust 01, 2014 - 1:30 pm

    Unfortunately, Daniel, there is no such civil right, at least for public school teachers. Of the over 1,000 public school districts in California, there were fewer than 6 several years ago that were not union. Teachers can refuse to join, but if their district is union, then they must pay dues anyway. That is my case and you can read my comments following.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodAugust 01, 2014 - 8:31 am

    Union organizing is not a civil right in Wisconsin and many other states. There needs to be federal legislation.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JagAugust 01, 2014 - 11:52 am

    Truth, are you talking about a right to work state when you say ( No one is forced to join a union except by other members pressure) If so California and many other states are not among those and if you accept a union job you join or you don't work?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Anne GriffinAugust 01, 2014 - 1:23 pm

    As a teacher in the Vallejo City Unified School District, I am forced to pay dues to a union that I refuse to join. I don't want to join them because I saw firsthand the lies and manipulation by the teachers' union that went on when I was a school board member here in Fairfield. I do, however request every year that the union refund my money that is used for political purposes, which amounts to $350-400. I have to do this every year in order to get back my money. I'm appalled that I should have to do that just to get my money back! I'm sure most teachers don't bother with that, since the union already has their money. A statewide reform that was on the ballot a few years back was trying to address the issue, but of course, the powerful CTA (teachers' union) fought it tooth and nail. I think if someone wants to join a union, there is nothing that should stop them. It seems unfair, though that if someone doesn't want to join, they are forced to still pay dues. I understand the unions feel entitled to rake in my dues every year, since they "fought" for my benefits, etc., however they are not entitled to use my money for political purposes. Unions have served a purpose in helping many people, but they have also contributed to the economic collapse in recent years. High cost of living is directly tied to high cost of labor. Just ask anyone left in Detroit (my birthplace) what the unions have done to the once proud auto industry.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Anne GriffinAugust 01, 2014 - 1:34 pm

    I also wanted to add that I pay over $1,000 every year in dues to the teachers' unions (NEA, CTA, VEA). It's my money, why do I have to give it to an organization I don't want to join?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodAugust 01, 2014 - 3:57 pm

    How did unions "contribute to the economic collapse of recent years?" Were they responsible for the corruption and/or incompetence of the bond rating companies? Or for the predatory practices of Goldman Sachs?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JimboAugust 01, 2014 - 4:14 pm

    Your total silence on taking every benefit the union offers employees and how it likely is worth much more than just 1000 buck per year is just more telling about yourself than unions.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Transportation leaders point to need for funding changes

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 9 Comments | Gallery

 
Together to remember children lost to violence

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
‘Cinderella’ carries on despite theater flood

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
3 letters to Vacaville may cost $100,000 to answer

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Church offers free Southern Gospel concert

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Summer Spare the Air season set to start

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: April 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: April 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Food often a conduit to something more

By Murray Bass | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

San Francisco Catholics deeply divided over archbishop

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Colleges starting to offer brewing courses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Hate crime charges for homeless beating suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Supreme Court ruling keeps sex offender registration in place

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

SFPD to pay for settlement of wrongful termination suit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
16 students injured when school stage collapses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Thousands march to mark anniversary of Armenian massacres

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Man ordered to stand trial for kidnap, rape charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Nuclear launch officers charged in drug case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Rubio looking to gain support in Iowa

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Hep C, HIV cases spike throughout Indiana

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
Obama uses hospital funds to help push for Medicaid expansion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Hawaii raises smoking age to 21

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Gray should have received medical treatment

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Italy police arrest nine terror suspects in sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Yemen rebels ordered to pull back

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

US completing review of hostage policy following drone strikes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
.

Opinion

Chaos in the primaries

By Thomas Sowell | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

 
Joy of baseball back in my life

By Deon Price | From Page: A8, 4 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: April 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: April 25, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Daughters’ ex is determined to turn their children against her

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

.

Entertainment

Seriously silly, Monty Python reunites for a weekend tribute

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

.

Sports

SCC baseball team wins to claim share of BVC title

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1, 2 Comments

 
Ynoa, Butler send Rockies to 6-4 win over Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Vikings fall to Jaguars 4-3 in 8 innings

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
After working OT in NBA playoffs, Curry, Rose can earn rest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Goodell: LA projects viable for bringing back team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Former Buckeyes teammates Cook, Sindelar top Legends of Golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Swafford, Weekley atop Zurich Classic leaderboard

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Logano wins pole at Richmond, his third of the season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Usain Bolt: Gay’s reduced doping ban sends wrong message

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Scott Dixon is chasing IndyCar wins leaders, not spotlight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Ducking the spotlight, some stars decide to skip NFL draft

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Garber: MLS plan in 6 months to expand beyond 24 teams

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dortmund, American Pharoah vie for favorite in 141st Derby

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Harden, Howard lead Rockets to 130-128 win, 3-0 lead on Mavs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Olympic sailing events may be moved from Rio’s polluted bay

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Canadian Henderson shoots tournament record for LPGA lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bowyer and Stewart looking for good runs at Richmond

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oregon wins distance medley relay at Penn Relays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Signups for Saturday, April 25, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B3

.

Business

Comcast abandons Time Warner Cable bid after gov’t pushback

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Cheaper fuel has airlines soaring to record profits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Wynn Resorts shareholders: Elaine Wynn won’t return to board

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Ford recalls 390,000 cars to fix door latches

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Winners and losers of the demise of the big Comcast deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
What could McDonald’s do to fix its business?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 3 Comments | Gallery

Durable goods orders up, but business investment falls again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Harley recalls nearly 46,000 motorcycles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
.

Home Seller 4/25/2015

Ask a Designer: decorating with spring pastels

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1 | Gallery

Real estate transactions for April 25, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US rate on 30-year mortgage slips to 3.65 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3