If Mitt Romney manages to become the Republican presidential nominee, one of the issues that would help him pull off his born-again conservative image is if he would take on outlaw unions in an aggressive fashion. Romney likes to stick with winning issues, and given that only 7 percent of wage and salary workers in the private sector are unionized, taking on unions is a pretty safe way to look tough and conservative.

In rereading Barry Goldwater’s classic, “Conscience of a Conservative,” I was again reminded of how convoluted the arguments over trade unions have become. It is a clear violation of property rights when a union not only can force itself on a business owner, but force everyone who comes to work for that employer to become a member.

And, when necessary, most unions will not hesitate to use coercion and government force to get what they want from an industry or employer. For example, when the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers got the National Labor Relations Board to file a case against Boeing to prevent it from opening a new plant in South Carolina – a right-to-work state – it was able to use the NLRB’s action as a blackmail weapon to get the company to raise wages and expand production in its Washington state operations.

When I use the term outlaw unions, this is precisely the kind of thing I am referring to. The Boeing situation was not a voluntary agreement between an employer and its employees’ union. It was a blatant example of union coercion.

The function of a trade union is to represent employees who want collective representation in bargaining with their employers regarding pay, working conditions and other aspects of their employment. That’s a perfectly noble and legitimate objective.

But when a union uses coercion to force its representation on an employee who does not want it, it engages in criminal behavior. That’s what the Employee Free Choice Act (which is a euphemism for the Employee No Choice Act) and Card Check are all about.

A union also engages in criminal behavior when it uses union dues for activities other than negotiating for better wages and working conditions for its members or employs coercion to deal with an entire industry rather than individual employers.

Using union dues to support political candidates is theft to the extent that one or more union members does not want his union dues used for such a purpose, while the desire to unionize entire industries is nothing more than collectivism with a different mask.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire of an employee to voluntarily appoint any person or organization to represent him. The operative word here is voluntarily. All men of goodwill believe in voluntary association among free people. And all men of goodwill also believe that the use of force without provocation is immoral.

The act of a worker joining a union is no different from my having a literary agent represent me for a new book or an actor having a talent agent represent him in negotiating for a movie role. Ditto with a sports agent negotiating with one or more teams on behalf of a professional athlete.

One might argue that a best-selling author, famous actor, or professional athlete has power and leverage the average worker does not have. True, but the reality is that every situation between two parties has different dynamics according to the value each party brings to the table.

Not every author, actor, or athlete is famous, but most of them still have agents. What changes from, say, a superstar athlete to a marginal player is the dynamic that exists between each of them and their teams’ owners. It goes without saying that some athletes have more clout than others, but that’s just the nature of life.

However, just because a person with whom you are negotiating has more power than you doesn’t mean you can’t have a mutually beneficial relationship. I’ve made millions over the years dealing with publishers who had a great deal of leverage over me.

And when it involves the relationship between workers and management, Henry Ford always comes to mind. In 1914, Ford, on his own initiative, more than doubled the wages of most Ford Motor Company workers and reduced their working hours from nine to eight.

Ford did not do this for humanitarian reasons. He did it for a rationally selfish reason – to attract the best available workers and motivate them to work more efficiently and produce the highest quality automobiles for Ford Motor. And to the dismay of socialists everywhere, Ford’s radical strategy worked!

By contrast, does anyone really believe that Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union, is concerned about the well-being of his union’s members? Or Andy Stern of the SEIU? Or Richard Tumka of the AFL-CIO? These Obama thugs are focused on a singular objective: achieving as much personal wealth and power as possible.

In truth, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a superstar athlete or a worker in a manufacturing plant. In a truly free society, the marketplace would guarantee that everyone would get exactly what he is entitled to – i.e., what the highest bidder would be willing to pay him, free of coercion.

The fact is that the Constitution is the only right-to-work law that is needed when it comes to trade unions. There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the federal government the authority to prevent someone from working at a company and not joining a union. And if the Constitution doesn’t specifically say the government can do something, it can’t!

No matter how many issues Romney flip-flops on, if he becomes the Republican nominee, he would be wise to go after unions that are engaged in criminal activity. If he really wants to be loved, this one is a slam dunk.

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