Earlier this week, the New Hampshire House held a hearing on Right-to-Work, which is a term describing a law that guarantees that an employee cannot be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or to pay dues to a union. From the Concord Monitor:
Hundreds of union members turned up to the State House on Tuesday to oppose a controversial right-to-work bill, loudly cheering fellow workers’ remarks and at times jeering those who advocated the bill’s passage.
(For my thoughts on the efficacy of New Hampshire legislative hearings go here.)
There are two genre of arguments over Right-to-Work. One can be called practical. Proponents of Right-to-Work argue that it helps workers as well as businesses, while opponents argue that it hurts workers:
Both sides presented competing evidence and disagreed over the proposal on wages. Proponents said right-to-work states experience higher wages, while union members said its implementation in New Hampshire would drive down pay.
Because there is competing evidence, in the form of competing analysis and studies by different think-tanks, the arguments over whether Right-to-Work results in higher or lower wages probably is a wash.
The other type of argument is ideological: the freedom versus free-rider arguments:
But there is actually a freedom argument to be made against Right-to-Work. The argument is that the employer should be free to choose whether to contract with a union or not. The problem with this argument is that it is illegal for the employer to choose not to contract with a union.
Stated slightly differently, the argument against Right-to-Work being an infringement against employer-freedom is that the choice is not between Right-to-Work and an ideal world where employers can choose whether to contract with a union or not, but between Right-to-Work and the real world we live in, in which government forces employers to contract with unions.
Some libertarians oppose Right-to-Work as more government regulation, but would remove the existing government regulation that favors unions. From the Mises Institute:
… incremental efforts need to go in the right direction. While right-to-work seems like a step in the right direction because it improves labor conditions and more closely simulates the free market than does the status quo, this is an illusion. In fact, these laws are steps in the wrong direction by favoring more regulation over less, more laws over fewer. They are a tacit concession that government mandates can solve our problems, and that employers cannot be trusted to run their enterprises without government intervention.
As free-market advocates, on the other hand, we have an obligation to uphold the ideal of no government intervention in markets, and to always support fewer interventions whenever we have the opportunity. Using government intervention as a means to reduce government intervention is methodologically unsound, and logically contradictory.
Democrats who oppose Right-to-Work cannot make the same argument because they want to leave in place government regulations requiring employers to contract with unions.
Democrats are in the minority of both branches of the legislature and need to peel off Republican votes to defeat Right-to-Work. In the House, Speaker Jasper’s support of Right-to-Work presumably will make it more difficult to peel off the RINO (Republicans-In-Name-Only) vote. That leaves the more conservative GOP representatives, some of whom presumably would be receptive to the libertarian argument against Right-to-Work. Except the Democrats cannot logically make that argument because they would be hoist by their own petard.