Coherence on Right to Work Law Not Ezra Klein's Strong Suit

Rachel Maddow is often absent from the MSNBC show which bears her name, thereby allowing one of her alternating guest hosts to serve up unintended comic relief.

Providing the hilarity last night was Washington Post blogger and Bloomberg columnist Ezra Klein, who predictably spun the story about Michigan legislators passing a right to work law (video after page break)

Here's Klein describing that day's actions at the Michigan capital in Lansing --

The Michigan legislature today finished what they started out of the blue last week. They passed a pair of bills to take union rights away from public employees and -- this is important -- from workers in the private sector. You can see the reaction from supporters of union rights today at the capital. More than 10,000 people gathered on the lawn outside. They say the protests today in Michigan, the largest the state has ever seen.

The bills weaken unions in Michigan by making it so that workers do not have to pay for union representation. Even before these bills passed you did not have to join a union in Michigan. Even if there was a union at your job you did not have to be part of it. You only had to pay your share of the cost of the union representing you.

What Michigan Republicans approved today is a new rule that says you do not have to pay even if you are being represented. You get the perks of membership, the higher wages, the higher benefits without contributing anything. You can be a free rider.

"Even before these bills passed," Klein says, "you did not have to join a union in Michigan ... you only had to pay your share of the cost of the union representing you."

Got that? Even when you weren't in a union, you actually were, in the form of involuntary separation of your wages to union coffers. Great arrangement for unions, not so good for workers who want no part in them. As for what "your share" constitutes, suffice it to say that unions are quite liberal on the math here. Their leadership doesn't come cheap.

Expect plenty more derision from liberals like Klein toward workers who reject coercive relationships with unions as "free riders." Problem is, it's patently untrue, as James Sherk explains in a Detroit News op-ed --

Unions object that right-to-work is actually "right-to-freeload." The AFL-CIO argues "unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don't contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections." They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their "fair share."

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. Under the Act, unions can also negotiate "members-only" contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on this point. As Justice William Brennan wrote in Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, the Act's coverage "is limited to labor organizations which are entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining agents of employees ... 'Members only' contracts have long been recognized."

Moreover, it is laughable for union proponents to claim that a shop steward will vigorously argue a grievance on behalf of an employee not paying union dues. In the real world, that doesn't happen, as this former union member is well aware. In the world as it actually works, union supporters are notoriously thin-skinned toward those who don't share their opinions.

Seeing how Klein has such an aversion to "free riders," I look forward to his condemnation of illegal immigrants and those who want welfare, food stamps, jobless benefits, etc., extended indefinitely.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts