Voluntary Association Not Allowed In The Volunteer State

The recent failure of United Auto Workers’ attempt to unionize the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant has become political fodder for Tennessee Republicans. In a recent interview, US Senator Bob Corker claimed the UAW is looking at VW workers as “a dollar bill” to further its union agenda. When questioned about his role in halting worker organization at the plant, a delighted Corker told CNBC he’s not surprised by union backlash because “a hit dog hollers.”

Corker noted in the interview he had been “assured” that a rejection of unionization would reward labor by sending new work to the plant. Crafty jargon from another Big Government conservative. Not only was this statement denied by VW, but now, because there is no union, the private company very well may halt expansion in the south.

The Chattanooga confrontation boils down to nothing but politics. Tennessee is already a “Right to Work” state, so if workers decided to join the UAW no employee would have had to join the union. Non-union workers at the plant would have avoided union dues (but received the benefits negotiated on their behalf by organized labor). There was no threat to conservative “Right to Work” laws, but Tennessee Republicans still meddled in the affairs of a private institution — because they loathe organized labor.

This has big implications for labor organizing in Tennessee. I am a Tennessean and a card-carrying member of United Campus Workers – Communication Workers of America (UCW-CWA), Tennessee’s higher education union. Tennessee Republicans do not believe I have the right to free association or to negotiate the conditions of my labor, and they will use their political clout to ensure I can’t. Let’s examine just what this means.

I am not endorsing the UAW or even the UCW-CWA. Big union, just as big business and big government, has its issues. However, I am endorsing voluntary association.

If workers come together to negotiate contracts with their employers that is nothing but the libertarian principle of freedom of association. If the bargaining process yields a voluntary contract between management and labor then what we have is yet another example of free association. This is simply co-operation in the work place. It is big government laws that tip the scale in favor of one group over another that are the problem. In Tennessee, “Right to Work” laws benefit capital at the expense of labor.

Republicans, by flexing their big government muscle, seek restrictions on voluntary transactions within a private company. They work to crush the very principle of free association. Regardless of how workers want to organize it is none of their business.

In liberty, freedom of association and voluntary contracts are the rule. The libertarian is not concerned with the rights of government — conservative or liberal, federal or state. The libertarian is concerned with individual rights — including the right to organize. Government laws restrict competition in the market and they restrict democracy on the shop floor. Without big government, labor would be liberated — free to smash government imposed privilege. Without big government, and moving beyond bossism, unions would once again dedicate their efforts to advancing the working class. It is government’s failure to respect voluntary contract, to leave the market alone, that is the real story of Chattanooga.

The solution is to smash the structures of big government that privilege one class over another in the first place. It’s not about politics or your next election, folks, it’s about free association.

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