Voluntary Association Not Allowed in the Volunteer State

by Grant A. Mincy

The recent shut down of the United Auto Workers (UAW) attempt to unionize the Chattanooga Volkswagen (VW) plant has become political fodder for Tennessee republicans. In a recent interview, Tennessee senator Bob Corker noted the UAW was 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 was 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 have rewarded 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 not be expanding 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 sign a union contract. This would allow workers at the plant to avoid union dues (but receive the benefits negotiated on their behalf by organized labor). There was no threat to conservative “Right to Work” laws, but Tennessee republicans still meddled with the affairs of a private institution – 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 see to it . 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 labor decides to come together and negotiate their contracts with their employer 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 become a problem. In Tennessee, “Right to Work” laws benefit capital at the expense of labor.

Republicans, by flexing their big government muscle, sought the restriction of voluntary transactions within a private company. They worked to crush the very principle of free association. Regardless of how workers wanted to organize it was 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 open 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 let 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. Go away.