Unions are American as apple pie
Like apple pie, Americans like unions, and union workers love their country. But, House Bill 474, pitched as a right-to-work bill, will inhibit workers. Proponents tout that unions lack value, citing declining memberships and liberty of one over others. The battle against public sector workers, however, proves the value of unions. They performed so well that changed law now weakens union contracts (New Hampshire pension reform, the evergreen clause repeal). Right-to-work laws go further to weaken both public and private workers. When law allows, unions perform well - that's their job. Public sector membership is higher, as state law governs. Not so for private workers. Federal law governs them and inhibits (though not prohibits) their organizing. Where states allow public unions, workers join. Here's proof. In Massachusetts, over 60 percent of public sector workers enjoy unionization; in New Hampshire, over 50 percent; New York, 70 percent unionized. Further proof? Laws allowing unions elsewhere: Sweden, 82 percent unionized; Denmark, 76 percent; Ireland, 45 percent; Canada, England, Germany, all over 30 percent, down from 50 percent before businesses moved to China and India.In the U.S., our high was 33 percent in 1945. When a 1935 law legalized unions, workers eagerly joined. Shocked, employers pushed the Taft-Hartley law in 1947; a Republican Congress overrode Truman's veto. The law worked, stopping increased membership rates cold. Next, a 1975 Supreme Court decision cut construction workers' freedoms to contract and legalized antitrust suits against workers. Construction rates plummeted from 80 percent unionized to 14 percent. As law and judges inhibit unionization, the private sector is 93 percent union-free.Not so, say some. Unions saw their heyday, and workers choose not to join them, they argue. Then repeal inhibitions to freedoms on whether to join unions, like Taft-Hartley, for starters. No, say opponents - then Americans would join unions.After all, corporations join unions like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire and Associated General Contractors - all employer unions with dues-paying members. Corporate unions pay big money to keep politicians, judges and law on their side. Newspapers, TV stations and radio shows crave advertising dollars to survive. In exchange, businesses get good press, including editorials and stories against labor unions. Their cash plants their seeds in the free marketplace of ideas (an expensive marketplace, by the way).Businesses lobby hard, too: Over 90 percent of registered lobbyists are business-related, fewer than 10 percent worker-related. Business unions perform well for their members. That's their job. Federal judges dismiss over 73 percent of employment cases to favor employers. Under New Hampshire's whistleblower statute, between 2006 and 2009, workers filed 134 cases, yet lost all but eight - a 94 percent employer win rate.Now, some businesses further seek to inhibit workers' liberty to contract, not by persuasion or contract, but by law. Squeezed, workers can't be pro-union and anti-business. Unions need many entrepreneurs. Don't like one company or the union contract? Find another. The Deep South, where right to work took root, bucked this concept that a union, once formed, has the right to force the minority that wants out to find their own country.Lincoln, a Republican, refused to break the Union. Similarly, workers who don't like unions may choose to join the remaining 93 percent of the workforce. They don't, because they love union contracts, yet don't want to pay the product's price. That's not American - it's stealing. We can't opt out of taxes, and we value freedom and unity. We boast "e pluribus unum" (from many, one) on our presidential seal and dollar bills. Even our founders ultimately named us the UNITED States.When they founded this nation, they rejected writing in our Constitution's preamble, in order to form a more perfect economy or business or individual or government. They wrote, "in order to form a more perfect union." Individuals excel best by unity, not right-to-work laws.New Hampshire's greatest son and orator, Daniel Webster, kept liberty's torch lit. He argued that man is a special being, and if left to himself in an isolated condition, would be one of the weakest creatures; but associated with his kind, he works wonders. He warned of delusion and folly in believing you can separate and choose liberty over union.Patrick Long is a Democratic state representative and alderman in Manchester. Attorney Mickey Long represents both labor and employer unions in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.