Sometimes, it is difficult to figure out what the libertarian position on an issue should be, because it is so muddled with a history of government interference.
One such issue is the bill that passed the House (but is unlikely to become law) called the "Employee Free Choice Act." The bill eliminates the requirement for secret ballot elections for forming unions, in favor of card checks (basically similar to signing a petition). On its face, it is easy to laugh at the hypocrisy of Democrats, who are the first to claim voter intimidation even in secret ballot elections. In no other context would the Democrats ever support such a voting change, but many in the party are convinced unions need a boost, and this is their solution.
This is the second pay-off to unions the Democrats have put forward.
Yesterday the House passed HR 800, the curiously misnamed "Employee
Free Choice Act" by a margin of 241-185. This act approves the use of
the very public card check method of certifying a union instead of
using a secret ballot.
As I mentioned here,
that opens the entire process to intimidation - on both sides. A secret
ballot was how it was formerly done and should have been preserved. I
can't imagine how anyone can make the argument, with a straight face,
that the card check system
But wait! What is the individual rights position here? Freedom of association means the government should not dictate to a group of people on how they organize. If a group of even two people want to get together at GM and call themselves a "union" and approach management to negotiate, they should be able to have at it. Of course, they'll probably get laughed out of the room, but it is odd the government should dictate how they can organize. In a free society, this is how things should work -- any number of employees should be able to organize themselves. If they get enough people, then they will have enough clout, perhaps, to be listened to by management.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a free society, and the term "union" comes with a lot of legal baggage. Recognized unions are granted certain legal powers and rights that an average group of self-organized folks don't. For example, they are the only private organizations in this country that I know of that have taxation power, and the power to demand absolutely that certain monies be withheld from employee paychecks (even of employees not in the union) and given to them. Perhaps more importantly, companies can't ignore them - they have to negotiate with a recognized union. Unions also have informal powers. For example, the legal system tends to tolerate a lot of violence and physical intimidation by union members (in strikes and such) that it does not tolerate in other contexts (seventy-five years ago, the situation was reversed and the system tolerated a lot of company violence against workers).
So what do you do? I have the same problem with immigration policy -- I think a free society would allow free immigration, but we are not a free society and have a myriad of government handouts we just can't afford to give to everyone who shows up at the door. Anyway, in the case of this bill, given the power we have granted to unions, I don't think the secret ballot election requirement is too unreasonable. Or maybe we could offer a compromise: Democrats can get card-check voting in unions as long as they allow the same system for presidential voting in Florida and Ohio.