Brent Graves, a biology professor at Northern Michigan University, sarcastically promotes in MLive a “right-to-live” law to balance right-to-work laws in Michigan. But the attempt to make worker freedom proponents look silly comes up short.
Graves proposes that his “right-to-live” law would allow Michigan residents to choose whether to opt out of paying taxes while still receiving benefits from state government. Graves’s main point is that there are similarities between union representation and an elected government:
“Unions exist only where a majority of those represented vote for them; they are democratically elected, just like governors and legislators,” he writes. “Every person in a union may not support all that the union does, and it is certainly true that not everyone agrees with the policies of our state government.”
There are several reasons this analogy falls short; for example, the fact that unions fight for exclusive representation of workers to increase their bargaining power. But the most significant reason is simpler: Government has a monopoly on force — unions (and other private political organizations) do not.
To see how silly the point is, consider stretching the analogy further.
Suppose the businesses in a town voted to be “represented” by the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber can make a plausible case that they advocate for businesses at the state and local level, meaning that they believe all businesses benefit from their work. Though they support some politicians on both sides, the Chamber generally sides with conservatives in the Legislature and on ballot proposals. This decision would surely make those on the left upset (the Michigan Chamber building was marched on during the union protest last month). So would Graves support the ability for a private business group to coerce dues money from local companies?
Just because a business happens to operate in a certain municipality does not give a majority the right to extract money from them for a private entity. And in the same way, state government should not force workers to send money to a union because of where they work.
The most important job of government is to protect the rights of everyone, which includes protecting the right to not send money to private political organizations people disagree with.
Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited.
Permission to reprint any comments below is granted only for those comments written by Mackinac Center policy staff.