from the Heritage Foundation: Labor Day Has Become Government Day
This Labor Day marks a milestone in the history of the U.S. union movement. It is the first Labor Day on which a majority of union members in United States work for the government.
As the writer at Heritage goes on to point out, when unions were “organizing” primarily workers for private companies, they had a motive to want the private company to prosper. (They should have, at least. Sometimes they behaved otherwise.)
Now that most union workers work for government, they want the government to grow. While that is not surprising, it is tragic – at least for those who love liberty.
Whenever and however government “grows” it necessarily does so at the expense of individual liberty. If, for example, the state sales tax is increased to pay for the demands of government union workers, individual liberty is decreased. What individuals would have decided to do with that money has now been trumped by what government officials have decided to do with that money. And that necessarily means less liberty.
But in fact, labor unions have, for a long time, been all about limiting individual liberty. They would not have to operate this way, but for a long time now they have.
If labor unions were simply groups of workers who would band together and refuse to work unless they were paid a certain wage or received certain other benefits, they would not limit liberty. But unions have not worked that way for a long time. They don’t like the possibility that people might decide to hire someone else. That possibility has to exist if we enjoy liberty. So early on unions enlisted the force of government to do all sorts of liberty-destroying things that would increase their power at the expense of liberty.
If the owners of companies are forced to negotiate with a union, liberty has been limited. (Notice the word forced here.) To put this in the most general terms possible: if you cannot terminate your employment of anyone you might employ, you are the slave of the person you employ. And unions have worked very hard to make sure this is the case.
All the typical union talk about “living wages” and “exploitation of workers” (the list of these phrases is long) really comes down to one question of ethics: who has the moral right to interfere with agreements between those who want something done, and those whom they can persuade to do it for hire? (The correct answer is: nobody.)
Whether it is the large firm producing automobiles, the small family-owned chain of plumbing shops in a city, the small print shop with only one location, or the guy you hire to mow your yard – the moral question is unchanged, and the answer is the same.
It is horrible that unions are now primarily organized against taxpayers. But unions went morally wrong long ago, the first time they enlisted the government to coerce anyone for their ends.