“Why should the government stop companies from listening to their workers?” Heritage Foundation expert James Sherk asks in a recent article for The Atlantic.

Anachronistic union-friendly regulations prohibit non-union employees from entering into direct talks with their employers, he points out:

The law gives workers an all-or-nothing choice. If they want a formal voice with management, they need to unionize. Otherwise, they must remain silent. The government will shut down other non-union forms of employee representation.

These laws no longer work for private sector workers, who want more personalized bargaining options that can take individual expertise and discretion into account.

Today, fewer than seven percent of private sector workers belong to a union.

The problems with the labor union model became even clearer last month when employees at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN voted against joining the United Auto Workers despite weeks of pressure from union organizers.

The final tally shocked the United Auto Workers union, which had objected to holding the union vote by secret ballot. The union is appealing the results to the National Labor Relations Board. Heritage analysts predict a hard-fought legal battle, especially in light of the ongoing dispute surrounding President Obama’s dubious “recess” appointments to the Board.

Heritage hosted an event on March 17 to discuss the significance of the Tennessee workers’ vote and the legal struggle ahead. Watch a video of the hour-long event below:

Do workers need a union to effectively negotiate with their employers? Tell us what you think in the comments

Comments (24)

rex thompson - March 21, 2014

With the “effective negotiations” of the UAW at the GM foundry in Ohio, they “effectively’ reduced a work force of around 6,000 to around 2,000 in less than 10 years. Unions have out-lived their useful lives and did so long ago. The unions are, and have been for some time, the second most corrupt organization in this country, coming in right behind our Federal Government.

James fisher - March 21, 2014

Absolutely not. I have worked in the auto union early in my working career. It was unskilled labor that cost me in dues and eventually closed doors. I have since worked 35 years in aviation with a non union company advancing to management with great pay and benefits. Very good treatment and relationship with the company to this day. Plenty of federal laws on the books to protect workers these days. Plenty of fraud and corruption with unions still exist. If you want to drive a company out of business, just unionize it.

Rex Whitmer - March 21, 2014

I have been a member of a union most of my working life. I have served as a local officer in most of those unions. The problem arises when the international makes the policy for the local. They have no idea of how locals feel, but feel that they must set the pace for all members. As a for instance, I worked for a long time in two different copper mines. The International came in and told us that we had to go for the same wages in Arizona as were paid back east in steel refineries. Our cost of living is no where near what it is in Pennsylvania or Ohio. This combined with anti smelting government regulations literally killed the copper mining business through out the US. We were aware that the mines were hurting and told the international that it would kill jobs and hurt us eventually, and of course it did. Locals should have the last word. The internationals can help with negotiations and legal wording, but it should be left to the locals as to what benefits they are after! I has now gotten to the point that workers resent the internationals worse than the employers.

Paul Anthony - March 21, 2014

Employment is a contract between employer and employee. Any prospective employee who is incapable of negotiating his/her own contract may not be qualified for employment. No qualified employee should need a union (or any other third-party) to negotiate for him/her.

Tom Crist - March 21, 2014

In my opinion, as a TAXPAYER, it is absolutely CRIMINAL that there should be such a thing as unionization of government workers! As I recall, unions came into being in the early 20th century. They were formed because of poor working conditions, low pay, child labor, etc., etc. None of that exists any longer. You can read study after study about how government employees are paid more than private industry for the same work. Yet they pay union dues. Where does a large chunk of their union dues go? You guessed it – to the Democrat party. Why should my tax dollars, which go to pay these people, go toward political contributions for liberal Democrats? As previously stated – CRIMINAL!

Larry Sparks - March 21, 2014

Government workers do not need a union voice, they are civil servants that are paid by and work for the taxpayers. Recent studies reveal that government workers are over paid by 30% for similar jobs in the private sector.

alva sallee - March 21, 2014

People should be in control of their work lives not some union rep. That can’ spell freedom. LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF THOSE WHO TRY TO DENY IT.. 63 Years and I worked under a union for a short time, never again. I’m getting older, now we have to have put up with the most lawless goverment in the history of the UNITED STATES..

Mary Nixon - March 21, 2014

I agree with Rex Thompson, unions have outlived their usefulness and are so horribly corrupt that they should all be dismantled. There was a time when it was necessary for them to exist, but no longer.

Delores Sandberg - March 21, 2014

At one time unions were a good thing but the pendulum has swung too far the wrong way. They encourage employees who produce to slow down. This means more union dues. The union I belonged to backed an employee who was reckless, so much so that other employees refused to stay in the truck cab when he was loading. The boss removed him from that machine but he sat by the time clock, punched in and out for three days and did no work. Got paid and the union backed him. With a union the boss is merely a figure head.

Jack Tirrell - March 21, 2014

Since unions in effect negotiate to increase union power, the workers are really not being represented. Workers should NOT be prohibited from direct negotiations with employers.

Anna Nelson - March 21, 2014

Unions may have a role helping workers negotiate contracts and defend against lawsuits, especially the CTA in which I was a member. But they are much more political organizations promoting liberals and do not represent their members. They require taxation without representation and do so with arrogance. Their coercive tactics and financial extortion need to be exposed. In the case of education their priority is neither teachers, children or education. It is political power and money.

Rob Burton - March 21, 2014

The foundation for relationships between management and workers is primarily based upon the combative nature of the Industrial Revolution. Corporations over reached in terms of the treatment of workers as cogs in a machine and unions over reached in terms of their open warfare against management.
Management today must take the responsibility to educate the workforce in terms of business and financial models as well as capitalism, global competitiveness, risk and reward.In addition, worker concerns should be understood in the decision process.
If the work force is treated fairly, the policies and decision making of management transparent, workers business educated and involved in the decision process, the corporation and workers will flourish.
This may result in a form of worker councils.Otherwise, union combative relationships and continued over reach will be a constant drain on corporate resources.

Francis J. Furrow - March 21, 2014

I have been a Republican all my life, so I am not a person who is pro union. However I can understand why one needs legal representation with an Employer. Here are a couple of examples where I felt it required me to vote for a union shop.
1. I work for several employers on the North Slope of Alaska in the oil fields. The oil companies were / are getting nearly $1,000,000 gross per employee working up there. This includes contractor employees, including camp cooks, guards, road maintenance, engineers, inspectors, welders, drillers, operators, Medical people, basically all employees working on the slope. Their annual cost per employee is less than $100,000 including travel from Anchorage or Fairbanks, meals and camp costs, and benefits, etc. They paid about $20 / hour average and had issues when the workers wanted a 50 cent per hour raise. I had a hard time finding sympathy for them when they were getting 10 times gross earning for ever dollar they paid in labor.
2. I was recruited by Boeing to move from Anchorage to the missile defense field at Fort Greely about 300 miles. The hiring process was quite extensive and took about 10 months with getting a security clearance, interviews, etc. The recruiter promised a full benefit package including relocation, $60 grand per year + OT, etc. When it came time of hire they offered the job but said they were going to hire through an manpower agency and the pay was going to be $20. The reason was they wanted to check me out before making me a Boeing employee. Once I was found to be acceptable they were going to give me all that was promised by the recruiter. I agreed that I would come but I put a time limit of 6 months for them to make there decision or I was going to leave and return to my house in Anchorage. They said they were going to make me a Boeing employee after I threaten to leave when we got past 5 months. I put my property in Anchorage up for sale on the basis of there promises and at about 5 months and three weeks I was offered a contract but it did not include relocation. They said I was already there so the relocation was not required anymore. Most all the people that came to work there had problems with unfulfilled promises, and there was a vote to go union. We did go union but what I would like to see is the laws changed where employers are required to write down there offer and then be held to it. I would further like to see the laws changed where a work group can vote to employee a representative to work on there behalf to right up contracts for the work group that will be actionable in a court or arbitration when there is a disputes with employees. I am sure that this would be cheaper that 3% of each employees wages for union dues. The law should prevent the employer from denying employment to a potential employee who request that he be represented.

Robert Cuminale - March 22, 2014

Start by eliminating the forced closed shop laws. Every state should be a Right To Work state. If the unions think their product is so good let them sell it to the workers and recertify at least every two years with another vote.

Robert J. Giuda - March 22, 2014

Unions may have outlived their usefulness in the auto industry, but as a 28-year conservative airline captain, I can most assuredly state with conviction that unions have NOT outlived their usefulness in the piloting and aircraft maintenance professions. Managements are focused on one thing: cost reductions. And were it not for unions, the aircraft our passengers fly in would be significantly less safe, as managements cut parts inventories, outsource work to foreign repair stations, and look to find ways around putting the best qualified pilots into the cockpits of our jets. That said, I fully believe that unions should be banned from government agencies at all levels, as unlike the private sector, there are no competing government agencies to provide the services provided by government employees. This makes for the worst possible, least efficient and most costly situation: monopoly bargaining with both parties using OPM.

ED Smith - March 22, 2014

Workers should always have choice to belong to a union if they want to . The state or Federal Goverment should not demand that there be a closed shop in that state. The right to work free from Gov . interferance is what America is all about.

GEORGE A. WARREN - March 22, 2014

Do workers need a union to effectively negotiate with their employers? General statement years ago (1968) most private sector Corporations employers, Small businesses employers were non-union because workers were happy and treated well. Most have a Union now, because workers are not treated well. Private small Companies and Corporations have sent out their work to other Countries, therefore reducing United States workers, to increase their profit. Side note, most Union leaders will tell you: if Corporations, Small businesses would treat employees well, therefore they would not need a Union at all, that simple . George

John Huston - March 22, 2014

When I was very young, 1940’s, I saw that Unions kept my father from being taken for a slave and turned out if he blinked the wrong way. We still have a use for Unions, but Unions don’t understand that this is no longer the 1940’s. You can’t make people blindly join Unions, take their dues, and turn over the money to their favorite politician. Today the Unions have a place to act as a security layer where members, workers, can appeal for violations of their rights and safety when an employer takes advantage of them. But the worker has a right to belong to that protection or not.

Holly Chapo - March 22, 2014

Workers most decidedly do not need unions to effectively negotiate for them. Recently, an auto company plant was targeted by unions to turn them into a union shop. The workers voted against unionizing. One reason given was that they could talk to management. That can happen across the country, in all states and in all companies. Also, it’s time for all “57” states to become right to work states.

mickey dorow - March 22, 2014

Unions should not be tax exempt. Unions have, for all intents and purposes, outlived their usefulness and “transformed” themselves into power/money grabbers. Unions still can serve a purpose of being a champion of working conditions.

C - March 22, 2014

Every state should be a “right to work” state. Public sector unions violate the constitutional rights of tax-paying citizens who work in the private sector. It is equally unlawful that 501(c)4 entities are forced to endure restrictive IRS regulations that 501(c)5’s (unions) do not.

William Pierce - March 23, 2014

one should never let someone else speak them
with out his or her consent

Norman Davis - March 24, 2014

Unions have long outlived their usefulness. Their tactics of intimidation and forcing workers to join is not only wrong and as I unerstand illegal. They need to be banned from our country forever.

Craig Crossland - March 24, 2014

Absolutely not. Employees can talk to most CEO”s anytime they want. At leased this has been my experience in dealing with businesses only, for 50 years.

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