My daily pilgrimage usually consists of a subterranean shuttle into the World Trade Center’s alien pod of a transit center known as the Oculus, at which point I emerge to the street level at Fulton Station, where the newest and world’s largest Chick-fil-A stands — a veritable poultry temple. Before I enter its hallowed halls to engage in my morning ritual of a Chick-fil-A biscuit – no meal, just the entree – I am met by as menacing 25’ balloon rat, which I am forced to do battle with before I attain my prize.
Yes, as the dragon guards the gold, this rat stands in brazen attempt to end my quest – but alas, I am galvanized. And after I pass, with transaction consummated and biscuit in bag, I tromp victoriously two more blocks to my law office. But really, there is a giant 25-foot inflatable rat in front of the Fulton Street Chick-fil-A.
Why you ask? Well, it is a union rat. I’ve lived in New York City for a few years now, and at first, I had no idea what the rat was doing. It would pop up mysteriously and seemingly at random in front of different buildings around the city, generally kept company by guys in worn-work boots, dusty-blue jeans, and neon shirts. Sometimes, the guys would be handing out flyers, but because of the presence of a large maniacal rat, I never felt inclined to take a flyer. Nevertheless, at some point it dawned on me that the neon shirted rat men were union workers, and I realized they were protesting the fact that the building was made by non-union labor.
Unions are in the spotlight these days with the recent Supreme Court Janus decision being scrutinized by shallow historical and legal analysis justified by depression era flashbacks to coal faced 5-year-olds. Janus is legally nuanced and excruciatingly long, I recently trudged through the opinion, but let’s remember the basics: (1) it is only applied to government employees, i.e. the public sector; (2) fundamentally, it has to do with the constitutional right to free speech; and (3) it did not destroy unions. The ruling simply allows public employees to choose not to pay dues to a union they do not belong to.
While unions may have been helpful in the 1930s when factory workers were fungible units whose skill make little difference to their output, unions may have outlived their limited usefulness by half a century. The strong arm of the union in the public sector directly impedes the opportunity for workers to be incentivized by producing, and has helped created things like the insanity of NYC’s Rubber rooms where hundreds of teachers get to hang out on full salary for years doing nothing – some after being charged with child abuse.
Although many have benefited by peaceful collective bargaining, the unions use of intimidation by bullying is not particularly helpful. Milton Friedman said the union’s primary tactic for getting what it wants is intimidation; not reason. Intimidation as a means to attain a political end is not justified in a political system where discourse is the primary means of creating and implementing policy decisions. It can’t be. Imagine the graceful political conversation: “Agree with me or I will withhold my services. I will call you a pejorative. I will punch you in the face.”
Intimidation certainly has been the baseline for union action, and has even been glamorized by Hollywood. Remember when Christian Bale was Jack the darling horse-riding lower-east-side protagonist of “The Newsies,” talking about beating any 8-year-olds that don’t join?
DAVID: (pleading) There’s not enough of us. Maybe if we got every Newsie in New York –
JACK: Yeah, we organize. We get all the New York Newsies to join us! This is great, Dave, keep talkin’ –
DAVID: It’s no joke! You saw what happened to those trolley workers –
JACK: Another great idea! Any Newsie don’t join with us, we soak ‘im — just like the trolley workers!
How adorable. Or perhaps, you recall the more recent union email quoted in The Daily Caller where the email’s author stated: “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families, then it will save the rights of 300,000 people, and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell.”
Intimidation is a primary tactic of unions and was even referenced by the predecessor of Janus — Abood v. Detroit Bd. Of Ed. —as a justification for allowing the unions to force unionization payments – else they fight with non-union members. That court stated: “It also frees the employer from … [among other things, being] subject to attack from rival labor organizations.”
Unions act as bullies, forcing those who join to support their political activity, which translates to supporting only Democrats with millions of dollars each year. Unions are a massive force in the Democrat Party’s grassroots action. In fact, Columbia professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez was quoted in a recent Vice article stating that the only contrasting entity the right has that is as powerful as the unions are churches or the NRA.
What a lucid contrast. On the one hand you have churches that are voluntarily joined, take up voluntary contributions, and promote loving your neighbor at the cost of self. On the other, you have unions that force contribution, force membership, and stand for the love of self at the cost of neighbors.
In a time where political and social discrimination has shamefully become appropriate if you are politically justified, unions fit right in. The use of discrimination, murderous threats, and giant blow up rats seem appropriate when you believe that without the union the world will fall into a “terrifying dystopia,” where workers are locked inside factories and weekends are gone. But these beliefs are unfounded.
The sectors that are making tons of money right now are the sectors without unions. Look at the tech sector, the number one growth sector of our economy. There it’s possible to make eighty grand with a three month boot camp course, and to have more flexibility in hours and place of work than ever believed commercially possible. That environment exists without unionization.
Whenever I see an antifa video online, and notice the protesters wearing black skull-laden masks, I think: These are not the good guys. When I see a giant rat with red eyes and foul yellowish fangs, my knee jerk is: These are not the good guys. When I see union workers being paid to stand in front of a restaurant for hours a day scowling at restaurant goers, and signs alleging Chick-Fil-A — an organization whose founders have given more than $68 million dollars to education and other charities — is greedy, I think: These are not the good guys.
Hard-nosed economic or political negotiations, with discourse that lays all the facts on the table and passionately debates the costs and benefits of divergent positions, are fine. But using bullying and intimidation to support an economic or political position, whether it involves Chick-Fil-A or White House staffers, is not.