Restraint of trade is a common law doctrine relating to the enforceability of contractual restrictions on freedom to conduct business going back to the 1700s. Basically, Common Law (the basis for much of American law) says “a contractual undertaking not to trade is void and unenforceable and contrary to public policy of promoting trade”. (Wikipedia 2012)
When taken in the context of Michigan passing a Right-to-work law allowing people to be employed without the influence of the major labor unions, the common sense of the law is pretty evident. But unions exert control over industry by controlling the workforce. The unions control the workers and if the unions say a person must become a union member or they can’t work, it seems there’d be a violation of this most basic of British Common Laws.
Many of the people actively protesting this legislative act passed by a duly elected state legislature, and signed by a duly elected governor, are decent folks behaving in a less than decent manner. They’re afraid they’ll lose control of their right to work and their ability to bargain collectively. They also fear they’ll lose their jobs to people NOT paying dues for the representation their unions afford them. But they don’t see they’re restraining others’ right to trade their skills for wages. They’re keeping people from working unless they join the unions.
This could be called extortion. You pay no dues; you can’t work on a union job.
Fear makes people react in strange ways. The basic fight or flight program means perceptions become instinct driven as opposed to reasonable and thought directed. When people fear a change they react, sometimes violently, against the impulse causing them discomfort. People involved in the oppositional side of this debate fear the gains they’ve made in employment, wages and benefits will be eroded by a workforce not shouldering the same expenses they have for union representation. They don’t want non-union personnel having what they have without paying dues as well.
But, the question has to be asked: what keeps the union member from not paying his dues? Union membership is a Constitutional right to bond together for the sake of representation in collective bargaining. It isn’t a constitutional or legal requirement. It can be a good thing when the unions pursue the eradication of unsafe work practices, reasonable work conditions and the end of illegal child labor. But, when unions and their supporters sanction violence and engender a statement from a legislator saying aloud “there will be blood”; there’s a very broad line of civility being crossed.
Violence dilutes the union message. It waters-down any good accomplished in the course of the protest. Violence is like a constriction of a watershed of good-will could be directed toward the unions.
Wisconsin citizens overwhelming rejected recall efforts against their governor and legislation blunting union power in collective bargaining. People want the right to work without unions demanding money from an already dissolving paycheck damaged by increasing taxation for social programs they may not want to participate in. People on fixed incomes seeking to supplement their income don’t need unions peeling dollars out of a payroll righteously earned with labors fairly rewarded.
Union members may still band together to collectively bargain. Nothing changes other than the specter of a “closed shop”, a business environment hostile to non-union personnel gaining employment, becomes a thing of the past. The unions may no longer extort dues from any and all people seeking employment. The unions may no longer be able to protect, disloyal, dysfunctional and incompetent workers they’ve allowed to become entrenched in their positions. These people could be replaced by qualified non-union personnel, especially if their actions or inactions threaten the safety and productivity of co-workers.
The selfish and self-centered actions of the unions and some of their members are disheartening. In a work environment made hostile by (p)residents taking sides and granting the quid pro quo of support for unions in exchange for support from the unions, we have a situation recognizable as the history of the Soviet Union is brought forward to infect the American dream. Union violence turns that dream into a nightmare.
Thanks for listening.