Collective Bargaining "Rights"
Williamsen, Kurt, The New American
"Don't let Walker take away our rights." That claim is repeatedly heard in Wisconsin as public-union workers try to recall Republican state Senators who voted for Governor Scott Walker's plan to require the workers to contribute more to their retirement and healthcare costs and limit their ability to use "collective bargaining" to increase pay and benefits.
Union workers claim that they are losing their "collective bargaining rights." But are union workers really losing rights? It depends upon one's definition of rights.
Tom Clementi, who defended the union line as a community columnist for the Appleton, Wisconsin, Post-Crescent, said that collective bargaining is a right because "federal and state law says so." In other words, rights are what the government allows one to do. If one is guided by that definition, then collective bargaining would be a right, but following that line of reasoning, Aryan Germans had a "right" to persecute Jews in the 1930s and '40s because government approved it. I doubt if most Americans--including Clementi--would be comfortable with that.
Let's assume that Clementi meant that rights are "what the government allows one to do, as long as the actions taken don't hurt other Americans." After all, in Clementi's world, though the state has the power to give you the "right" of collective bargaining, it shouldn't have the power to take away that right. Assuming this is what Clementi meant would also put his comment about "federal and state law" more in line with American jurisprudence, which basically says that one's rights end where another person's nose begins. If one's actions hurt another person physically, monetarily, or reputation-wise, one has overstepped one's rights. How then does collective bargaining stand up as a right?
Collective bargaining still fails to qualify as a "right" because collective bargaining definitely causes non-union workers to suffer. To understand how collective bargaining causes suffering, we must first understand what it is. Collective bargaining is more than just bargaining for wages as a group--if it were just that, it's likely that few in the private sector would have a problem with it. In practice, it means that when a group of public workers form a union, they can demand under power of law that disagreements between them and their employers go into binding arbitration, and an arbitrator will decide how many of the union workers' demands must be met in a negotiation period. (Any demands that are not met in one negotiation period will be sought in a following period--and then some. …