Some Further Causes of Outsourcing


All over the country some employees face this situation: Although they have deliberately refused to join a labor union, the federal government is forcing them to pay union dues on the grounds that they are benefiting from high wages unions allegedly have achieved for not just their members but for all the workers where they are employed. How else could they send letters to these non-union workers asserting that they are owed the dues?

What if the workers refuse to pay? Why can they be threatened with being forced to leave the jobs they hold?

Oh, you say, these are private contracts entered into by the unions and the employers. But that is weird'how could such a contract obligate other than those who enter into it? Can I write up a contract with Joe, here, in line with which you, Harry, have to pay me money? Isn't that involuntary servitude rather than employment?

Of course it is. Yet throughout the country employees are receiving such notices and they seem to have the force of law behind them. Why?

Because the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act) has empowered the unions to coerce non-members to pay, never mind the consent of these non-members. As I've been informed, a union that's been voted in by a majority of the bargaining unit has a monopoly in representation over all workers in the unit, even those who voted no for the union. It is illegal for any worker to bargain individually, or to join any other union. So the idea is that a majority can conscript the minority to its deals. (See Morgan Reynolds, Power and Privilege for more on this. See, also, Tibor R. Machan, Private Rights and Public Illusions, Chapter 10, 'Some Philosophical Aspects of National Labor Policy.')

You may say, but they ought to pay because they are getting better deals as a result of the union's negotiations. But this is also weird.

If I make improvements on my home that reduces the fire hazard for not just me but my neighbors, even though I never asked my neighbors to share the cost of this, I have no justification for forcing my neighbor to pay. If my improvements increase the market value of their homes, not just mine, I still have no justification for extracting payment from them.

Benefits bestowed upon others they never signed up for cannot possibly obligate them'otherwise all the pretty women in the world could collect hefty sums from all those who delight in looking at them.

This idea of the unions, which has been sanctioned and given legal backing by governments, is sheer extortion. But it also has some pretty hefty economic consequences. Sometimes unions manage to get employers to agree, contractually, not to hire non-union employees, but this isn't what unions are doing when they force non-union employees to pay dues after they are already on the job.

Given that employees are forced'the letters they receive often uses the phrase 'you are required''to pay the union dues whether they are members or not, their wages effectively drop. And the employer is now asked to make up for this, which of course increases the cost of whatever goods and services the employee helps produce.

That, of course, decreases the competitiveness of the company's products, increasing the pressure to take the business someplace where unions haven't gotten into bed with governments in order to be able to perpetrate the extortion to which they are clearly not entitled but which they have managed to finagle with the force of law!

Once again it is government, at the urgings of vested interests, that have managed to make the American job market too expensive for at least a portion of employers and thus has contributed to driving them to seek a more hospitable climate. Let's see if critics of outsourcing acknowledge any of this in the currently raging debate.

Defenders of free trade, at least consistent ones, those with integrity, are not blind to the fact that people who hold decent jobs in America often suffer considerably when these jobs go to others around the globe. And if such shifts are the result of the choices of consumers, customers, such is life and one simply must adjust, however inconvenient that may be. One has no right to force customers to keep patronizing companies just because these companies and their employees are being downsized when customers leave. Anyone who has ever been laid off because of such economic shifts can fully appreciate how rotten such a thing feels, how much pain it involves. Still, the right to freedom of association means customers may walk if that's what they choose to do, just as employees may leave a job if they so choose.

But when government's coercive policy brings about such economic shifts, the situation is different and protests are fully justified. Sadly, enemies of free trade tend not to pick their targets well and instead blame companies and foreign workers.

Your rating: None
Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.