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Wondering where the Bernie Bros (and Sisters) went after Bernie Sanders lost the 2020 Democratic primary to Joe “I am not a socialist” Biden? Well, many of them, under the leadership of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), which enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, thanks to Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 Presidential campaigns, are trying to drag the American economy back to the days when union leaders like Jimmy Hoffa had the power to shut down large parts of it.

Their tool is “salting.” Salting is where a union organizer gets a job for a company posing as just an ordinary worker. But the salt’s true agenda is to infiltrate the company and sow division between workers and management, and also look for possible justification to file complaints for labor violations with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The goal is to turn the majority of the workers against their bosses so they support unionizing.

As Caitlyn, an ex-Bernie Sanders volunteer turned union organizer told In These Timesthe end of the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign morphed into a summer salting project.” According to In These Times, the YDSA may have trained as many as two thousand young left-wing activists on how to salt. So, at a time when socialism has come back into vogue among significant parts of one of America’s major political parties, with Members of Congress referring to themselves as “democratic socialists” and at least one member of the Biden Administration—Federal Trade Commissioner Lina Khan—seeking to use antitrust laws to redefine the relationship between business, workers, consumers, and government, why would the DSA focus on union organizing?

The answer can be found online with a look at DSA’s website, which states that, "We want to collectively own the key economic drivers that dominate our lives, such as energy production and transportation.” In other words, they want to achieve the communist goal of ownership of the means of production. The difference is that, this time, control will be in the (nominally) private hands of the Teamsters and their comrades in the DSA. The DSA and the Teamsters will, for at least the next year and four months, be aided and abetted by President Biden’s administration. After that, if they are successful, it will not matter who controls Congress as power over the “…key economic drivers that control our lives” will lie in the hands of the Teamsters, other labor unions, and DSA comrades.

As Keith Williams, of the Center for Independent Employees, and Frank Ricci, labor fellow of the Yankee Institute, pointed out in Newsweek, the Teamster-DSA agenda prioritizes seizing and exercising economic and political power to implement a socialist agenda over improving the quality of life of blue-collar workers. 

This is not in the interest of workers.

Those of us who support free markets must aggressively oppose this new (actually renewed) union-socialist alliance. We must do more and should push to repeal federal laws that allow union bosses to run roughshod over the rights of workers by forcing them to join unions or pay union dues. A good first step is passage of the National Right to Work Act, which simply repeals those sections of federal law giving union bosses power to force workers to pay union dues. We must also promote a vision of unions as truly voluntary organizations formed to represent the interests of the workers, not advance a political agenda. This organization would negotiate in good faith with employers recognizing that workers thrive when their companies thrive, and their companies thrive when the economy thrives—and the economy thrives when it is free from government meddling.

Unions could also help workers by reviewing the friendly societies, in which workers band together to save money that can be used to care for workers who, for whatever reason, are no longer able to work and provide for their families. These societies prove that in a free society, individuals can and will provide aid to those in need more efficiently and compassionately than a welfare regulatory state. Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but the chains of corporatism and socialism.

Michigan and National Democrats Side with Union Bosses Over Workers

Michigan made history recently when it became the first state to repeal a Right to Work law since 1965. Right to Work laws, which were authorized by Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, protect workers in Right to Work states from being required to pay union dues or join a union as a condition of employment. Right to Work laws thus restore the fundamental American principle to labor policy that individuals should not be forced to support a private organization against their will. The majority of American workers support Right to Work because they want to choose for themselves whether or not to have a union represent them at the bargaining table. 

For example, Michigander Mike Williams, a paraprofessional for a vocational training program, resigned his position as a vice president of his union because he realized his coworkers would be better off negating their own contracts with their employer. Michigan auto worker Terry Bowman summed up the case against compulsory unionism thusly, “it just wasn’t right that I was forced to pay an outside organization my hard-earned money in order to work.”

Right to Work does more than protect a workers’ right to choose whether or not to join a union or pay union dues. By limiting the ability of union bosses to create divisions between labor and management, as well as to impose counterproductive rules on the workforce reduce company flexibility, Right to Work benefits workers. 

Of course, union officials and their allies claim Right to Work laws reduce wages. The unions’ case depends on ignoring the cost of living, which is consistently lower in Right to Work states. Therefore, workers in Right to Work states may make a lower nominal wage, but their wages have more buying power than those of workers in states with compulsory unionism. Workers in Right to Work states not only have the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union, they also enjoy a higher standard of living.

This is certainly true in Michigan’s case. The average income of Michiganders grew by an inflation-adjusted (commonly referred to as “real” wages) average of 0.6 percent in the nine years before Michigan became a Right to Work state. While real wages rose by 21.9 percent in the nine years after Michigan became a Right to Work state. Michigan workers are not just earning more, there are more of them. Unemployment averaged 8.5 percent in the decade before the passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law. In the nine years following Right to Work’s passage unemployment averaged 6.0 percent. The growth in jobs and incomes may explain that while Michigan’s population declined by 120,401 people in the nine years before the passage of Right to Work law, 130,060 people moved to Michigan in the nine years after Right to Work passed! 

These new Michiganders may have moved in hopes of getting one of the 155,100 new jobs created in Michigan in the nine years after Michigan became a Right to Work state—as opposed to the nine years before Right to Work came to the Great Lakes when the state lost 379,400 jobs. Moreover, in the approximately seven years after Michigan became a Right to Work state- Michigan added 404,400 jobs. This suggests these statistics would be even more impressive if Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer had not imposed one of, if not the, strictest COVID lockdowns in the nation,

So, if the right to work is so beneficial to workers, why did this Michigan Democrat, majority legislator, and Democratic governor want to repeal it? It’s not because the people of Michigan favored repealing the law. Polls show the majority of Michiganders support Right to Work—including 60 percent of union households. Aren’t Democrats the party of workers? While that is the image they try to project, the reality is the Democrats are the party for union bosses. Union bosses have long used the forced dues to fund a political machine that remains one of the Democratic Party’s main sources of money and “volunteers.” Unions are once again in vogue on the left, thanks in part to Bernie Sander’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. This provides new incentives for Democratic politicians to pander to union officials and left wing activists by attacking Right to Work. Hopefully, those politicians who place the interests of their union boss cronies ahead of their working-class constituents will pay a political price that will serve as an important lesson to legislators in other states, and lead to the swift return of worker freedom to the Great Lakes.

Norm Singleton is a senior fellow at the Market Institute. 

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