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What if Collective Bargaining 'Rights' Were Antitrust Violations?

"Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty..."

It's an idea worth exploring: what if collective bargaining "rights" were more akin to antitrust violations? It's an idea Robert Barro puts forth in an op-ed in Monday's Wall Street Journal.

Barro, a professor of economics at Harvard and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, bases his observation on the fact that unions are generally founded on collusion:

Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty, akin to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. For a teachers union, collective bargaining means that suppliers of teacher services to all public school systems in a state—or even across states—can collude with regard to acceptable wages, benefits and working conditions. An analogy for business would be for all providers of airline transportation to assemble to fix ticket prices, capacity and so on. From this perspective, collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty.

He also explains that Unions have manged to dodge antitrust laws despite their practice of forced membership:

Remarkably, labor unions are not only immune from antitrust laws but can also negotiate a "union shop," which requires nonunion employees to join the union or pay nearly equivalent dues. Somehow, despite many attempts, organized labor has lacked the political power to repeal the key portion of the 1947 Taft Hartley Act that allowed states to pass right-to-work laws, which now prohibit the union shop in 22 states. From the standpoint of civil liberties, the individual right to work—without being forced to join a union or pay dues—has a much better claim than collective bargaining. (Not to mention that "right to work" has a much more pleasant, liberal sound than "collective bargaining.") The push for right-to-work laws, which haven't been enacted anywhere but Oklahoma over the last 20 years, seems about to take off.

"There is evidence that right-to-work laws -- or, more broadly, the pro-business policies offered by right-to-work states -- matter for economic growth," Barro says. To read that evidence, visit the Wall Street Journal.

One last thing…
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