- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

Imagine your reaction if a federal law said that there could only be one supermarket chain in your state. Under this hypothetical law, once a supermarket chain had been chosen, no competition would be allowed.

Then imagine that you had to pay a monthly fee to this supermarket chain even if you didn't like their products or never bought anything there. Would that be unjust?

Of course it would. But many workers around the nation suffer a similar injustice this Labor Day because of federal labor laws. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a Depression-era law passed in 1935, workers can be forced to financially support a union in their workplace even if they strongly object to it.

Once a union receives the government-granted privilege of "exclusive representation" under the NLRA, it's illegal for individual workers to negotiate with management on their own behalf or choose a different union to represent their interests. Federal law has taken away their freedom of choice.

In addition, under the "forced unionism" provisions of many collective bargaining contracts, those same workers can be compelled to support a union financially with forced-dues payments even if they object to doing so. Many workers do object, for a wide variety of reasons. But, under federal law, they have only limited rights.

One worker who objected to this scheme was a telephone lineman named Harry Beck, who didn't want his forced union dues to support the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. With the help of free legal aid provided by the National Right to Work Foundation, Mr. Beck carried his complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1988, he won a landmark ruling in CWA vs. Beck that he could stop the payment of his forced dues for any purpose not related to collective bargaining. (Politics, for example.)

Unions devote huge amounts of forced-dues money to politics, including campaign donations, lobbying and many other forms of political action. Virtually all of this cash goes to support big government candidates and causes, even though union members are as divided on political issues as other Americans.

In the 2000 election, for example, Al Gore received less than 60 percent of the votes of union households, but union bosses supported him virtually 100 percent and put their massive political machine at his disposal. Experts estimate that big labor in 2000 spent at least $800 million nationwide on behalf of its pet candidates and causes. That buys a lot of political influence.

Many other federal, state and even local laws give special legal privileges to labor union officials. While union propaganda claims that these special privileges benefit workers, the truth is that they really benefit the union hierarchy. For proof, just consider the following examples of how viciously union bosses persecute individual workers who challenge their power.

Machinists union officials had Iowa single mother Jean Green illegally fired from her job as a United Airlines customer service clerk last Mother's Day for exercising her right not to join the union.

In California, berry picker Francisco Alcazar and 150 of his fellow employees at Oxnard Coastal Berry who objected to union membership were fired at the illegal demand of United Farm Workers union kingpins.

During a strike at a General Motors brake supplier, Shucheng Huang (a Vietnamese refugee from communism) and several of her co-workers were terrorized by United Auto Workers (UAW) union militants. The UAW thugs initiated a vicious campaign of terror, in which they placed a bloody cow's head on the hood of Ms. Huang's car, vandalized workers' cars and homes and followed up with death threats and physical attacks.

With the help of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, all these workers have gone to court to protect their rights. But why should they have to file lawsuits against their supposed protectors? The answer is simple. Union bosses do not look out for workers' best interests only their own.

These cases are a stark reminder this Labor Day that America's workers continue to be bullied and deprived of their rights by union officials who only seem interested in expanding their power. So much for the little guy.


Stefan Gleason is vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.


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