When the Republican party was founded it formed around a nucleus of anti-slavery activists and northern labor reformers. They saw that the larger economic and political issue of the time, of which the abolition of slavery was only a part, was the idea of free labor. Slave labor was not free, and neither were workers in the industrial towns of the northeast who were in debt bondage to their employers. These 19th century liberals believed in free markets for the products of agriculture and industry and in a free market for labor, where workers were free to choose where they worked and to negotiate fair terms of employment based on market wages.
Abraham Lincoln was willing to go to war over this principle and hundreds of thousands fought and died to secure the right to live and work in an environment of freedom. In that era there was an understanding that labor and capital worked hand in hand for mutual benefit. This relationship was recognized in the Republican Party Platform of 1872:
Among the questions which press for attention is that which concerns the relations of capital and labor, and the Republican party recognizes the duty of so shaping legislation as to secure full protection and the amplest field for capital, and for labor — the creator of capital — the largest opportunities and a just share of the mutual profits of these two great servants of civilization.
Today there are those who would upset the balance between labor and capital and who would love to see an end to free labor and a return to a closed and controlled labor market where workers no longer have access to a free market of wages and opportunities. At the urging of labor unions who seek to establish monopolistic control over the workforce, Congressional Democrats led by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) have introduced a bill ironically titled the Employee Free Choice Act (HR1409). This act would take free choice away from workers and force unionization on workers in businesses nationwide without consideration of their best interests or preferences.
This bill, also known as "Card Check," would take away the right which workers currently have under the National Labor Relations Act to decide whether or not to join a union under the protection of a secret ballot. The EFCA would instead allow a public vote with no protection for the rights of workers and do so using deceptively worded authorization cards where the mere action of agreeing to hold a vote may obligate workers to accept unionization. If a vote is held, the public nature of the vote will subject workers to intimidation, peer-pressure and coercion from union operatives, making it easy to bully them into joining. If card check passes, workers will be coerced into joining unions against their will, swelling union treasuries with billions of dollars that will go to support the same Democrat politicians who have been promoting this bill.
A study from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that forced unionization hurts businesses, workers and the economy by slowing employment growth. Over the five years from 2002 to 2007, private-sector jobs in Right to Work states increased from 40.92 million to 44.85 million, or 9.6%. In this same period, states which forced unionization on private-sector employers saw much smaller job growth, from 67.27 million to 69.72 million, a gain of just 3.6%. At a time when we're losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, placing roadblocks in the way of private employers is pure madness.
It's vitally important that government protect the right of workers to organize and form unions and negotiate freely for better wages and working conditions. But this does not mean allowing workers to be forced into unions against their will and when it is not in their best interests. Protecting the rights of workers includes protecting their right to privacy and to decide whether to join a union on their own terms without intimidation or interference. Card Check is designed to unbalance the relationship between unions and employers, between labor and capital and impose union membership whether it is needed or not, doing particular harm to smaller businesses where it is unnecessary and often causes prohibitive costs and job cuts.
With 224 co-sponsors, EFCA is almost certain to pass the House, so the best hope for stopping it is in the Senate where it does have 46 sponsors, but where Republicans and some responsible Democrats could still block passage. Key Democratic Senators who might vote against Card Check include Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Dorgan (ND), Lincoln (AR) and Pryor (AR). Republicna Senators Snowe and Collins from Maine could also play a deciding role. You can contact these Senators and let them know that you believe in a free market for labor where government protects workers rights, not the ambitions of union bosses. We fought a Civil War to ensure that we would have an economy based on free labor. Workers who are forced to join a union are not free.Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.