Economy & Budget

Will Big Labor Try to Repeal Right to Work?

After spending well over $1 billion to elect a President and majorities in both the House and the Senate, Big Labor is gearing up for passage of the Card-Check Forced Unionism Act (a.k.a., Employee Free Choice Act) within the first 100 days of the new Congress.

This high-priority forced unionism bill would help union organizers corral millions of American workers into union collectives by effectively eliminating workers’ ability to use the secret ballot as a means to avoid unionization. Workers would face greatly intensified and expanded intimidation campaigns from union organizers who repeatedly harass them at work and even at home to sign union authorization cards.

Mandatory “card-check” organizing privileges have been on the Capitol Hill agenda for many years, thanks to Big Labor-backed politicians such as Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from the Berkeley, Calif., area, and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.). But for much of that time, few took the threat of its enactment seriously. No longer.

While it’s still possible a Republican-led filibuster — now dangling by a thread — could keep Card-Check Forced Unionism from locking millions into forced-dues-paying ranks, the outlook is dicey.

Just as card-check was off the radar a decade ago, Big Labor’s Holy Grail — a bill to overturn every Right to Work law in the country by federal fiat — is lurking in the shadows.
State Right to Work laws secure the principle that no worker should be compelled to join or pay tribute to a union to get or keep a job. Currently, 22 states have such laws, and these states have far outperformed forced-unionism states in numerous measures of economic growth and vitality.

But the freedom and prosperity that Right to Work brings will be in jeopardy if union stooges like Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.) get their way.

In July, Sherman introduced legislation to repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act — the provision of the 1947 law that affirms the right of states to enact Right to Work laws. Strike Section 14(b) from the books, and state Right to Work laws would be preempted by federal labor policy, which upholds forced unionism.

Americans Back Right to Work

Sherman’s bill got little attention last year. Even most Democrats ignored the proposed 14(b) repeal. Only eight House Democrats cosponsored the bill before Nancy Pelosi sent it to committee.

But as time goes on, and particularly if Big Labor’s cronies in Congress pass legislation like the Card-Check Forced Unionism Bill or the Police and Fire Fighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill, which would force countless thousands of America’s first responders under union control against their will, a fresh attempt to repeal Section 14(b) may gather steam.

Fortunately, the Right to Work principle is popular with the American people — as nearly eight out of ten Americans agree that employment should not be conditioned on union membership or dues payment.

Big Labor will surely look to take advantage of its powerful role with a friendly President and Congress. But organized labor and the Democrats should beware: History shows that taking on 14(b) could be politically fatal.

Much like the recent election, 1964 saw a liberal Democrat — with substantial help from union money — defeat an Arizona senator’s White House bid and tighten the Democrats’ grasp on Congress. President Lyndon Johnson, who as a member of Congress had actually voted to overturn Harry Truman’s veto of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, sought to repay Big Labor’s big money boys in a big way.

President Johnson rammed a repeal of 14(b) through the House with very little debate, and he expected his Democratic supermajority in the Senate to pass the bill without a hitch.

But when the National Right to Work Committee rallied grassroots America, Senate conservatives and moderates revolted and sustained a fervent filibuster. Minority Leader Everett Dirksen — who later recounted that the 14(b) battle was one of the proudest moments of his Senate career — vowed to read aloud on the Senate floor approximately 3,000 newspaper editorials that had come out in support of Right to Work.

That filibuster strategy worked. Section 14(b) was preserved, and forced-unionism proponents got hammered at the polls in subsequent elections. Republicans picked up 47 seats in the House in 1966 — the 14(b) repeal had passed in the House by a slim 18 votes. And the Democrats lost seats in the Senate in the next three elections.

Do the union bosses and their Democrat buddies dare make a frontal assault on Right to Work again? We hope not. But if they do, they will get a rude awakening. Americans are more ready to respond than Big Labor thinks.


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