Paycheck Protection and Union Dishonesty

Paycheck protection and right-to-work are under siege in Missouri’s continuing labor fight. Supporters of paycheck protection argue that the law, just passed by the Missouri House, increases individual liberties by requiring public employers to get annual consent from employees before they deduct union dues from their paycheck (which would keep tax dollars from unnecessarily funding unions). But unions and their allies have assailed the bill as “anti-union,” just as they have with right-to-work legislation.

Calling paycheck protection “anti-union” is a stretch at best. Again, I challenge the reader to find any “anti-union” measure in the bill’s text. Paycheck protection would prevent unions from doling out worker’s hard-earned dollars to support politicians they don’t and feed union bosses’ bloated salaries. That seems pretty worker friendly to me, but Big Labor insists that the law was crafted to silence the voices of hard working public employees.

The only argument from the union side that I find worthy of discussion is the argument that paycheck protection can indirectly encourage free-riding. In fairness to unions, free-riding on their benefits without paying is wrong, but, like I have said before, it’s a separate problem and not one that is righted by denying nonunion workers a choice in paying dues (and I seriously doubt that free-riders threaten to starve unions anytime soon. Even if they did, that does not validate the undemocratic system of forced union dues).

But Big Labor should rest assured that if it’s a potential decrease in dues that they’re worried about, they suffer from no lack of funds to put toward political purposes and the voices of public employees are unlikely to be silenced anytime soon. Yet laughable accusations of “union busting” still abound!

How are unions able to spin such a mild law like paycheck protection into such a malicious, anti-union effort?

The same way they did with right-to-work: through tremendous feats of intellectual dishonesty. For example, at the union-funded Center for Media and Democracy’s “PR Watch,” they cite “research” from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) — a group that receives over a quarter of its funding from unions — that claims that right-to-work laws have little if any impact on economic growth. Compare that article to an article from Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which says the opposite. Notice the Mackinac Center’s article invites critique of its research and addresses the issue’s complexity in a fair, measured tone. Now notice how the EPI’s article wastes no time in belittling those on the other side and concludes that support for right-to-work laws comes from “anti-union zealots” who want to restrict collective bargaining instead of from evidence that the laws are economically beneficial.

One would think that EPI’s article was written by an angry undergrad, but Gordon Lafer holds a doctorate in political science and testified as an expert witness before the U.S. House and Senate. The only thing I can think of to explain the glaring contrast between his article and Mackinac Center’s is massive intellectual dishonesty, the kind that union bosses rely on to scare the rank and file away from reasonable laws and the kind that is exemplified in this quote from Mr. Lafer,

 …“the experience of Oklahoma…furnish[es] strong evidence that economically troubled states could greatly accelerate their job and income growth by passing Right to Work legislation”…The volume of evidence examined in this report, both from previous scholarly research and from direct analysis of the data from Oklahoma, all points to the opposite conclusion: No matter what measure one uses, there is simply no evidence that right-to-work has increased job opportunities for Oklahomans.

The opposite of saying “…states could greatly accelerate their job and income growth by passing Right to Work legislation,” would be to say that right-to-work legislation decelerates job and income growth, not “…there is simply no evidence that right-to-work has increased job opportunities…”

I will not question Mr. Lafer’s understanding of the word “opposite,” but I will say that he is being intellectually dishonest about the evidence. I hope, for Big Labor’s sake, that this is not typical of the “research” on which they draw for defense.

I should say that I do not believe that everyday union members are the enemy – unions are composed of many well-meaning and reasonable people directed by unreasonable leaders. But given the history of union tactics, and the quality of research on which they rely, I am not overly confident that the battle for worker freedom will be won anytime soon in Missouri. Yet it is my persistent hope that the rank and file will see the truth behind Big Labor’s smokescreen of intellectual dishonesty. Laws like paycheck protection are intrinsically harmless and such an admission on the part of everyday union workers would be to the credit of the thousands of honest, hard-working union members throughout America.