This post originally ran May 19, 2016.
Yesterday was Labor Day, and millions of Americans celebrated it with chips and burgers, grateful for the three-day weekend, and with only a dim awareness of what the difference between Labor Day and Memorial Day might be. In short, Labor Day for most has been scrubbed free of all commie toxins, and is now perfectly safe for your family to enjoy. More background here.
Someone might wonder what’s wrong with celebrating work, or the work ethic, or a culture of hard work? How is that a commie toxin? The answer is nothing, and it is not a commie toxin. Keep right on.
Pressed on the point, someone might say that we need to celebrate organized labor. Okay, I’ll bite. Organized to do what? Organized by whom? Organizing to what result?
The answer is that collective bargaining, unlike labor or work, is not part of the creation mandate. Organized labor is organized to take control of an asset away from its rightful owners without paying for it. Organized labor is organization of property by those who don’t own it. Organized labor, by driving up the costs of production through coercive means, destroys industries. Organized labor is piracy without the boats and eye patches. Why would anybody want to celebrate organized labor?
Good hard work, fine. Organized labor, not so much.
However you describe it, organized labor wants to force all workers at a particular point of production to join the union, whether they want to join or not. They want to make membership in the union a condition of employment. They want to extract dues by force of law, making those dues a kind of tax. They want the right to walk off a job they did not create, and simultaneously keep that job off limits for others by harassing any “scab” who desires to replace the absent workers. In short, organized labor is organized to do unrighteousness.
Take away ungodly coercion — the coercion of business owners and other workers alike — and you have taken away the whole enterprise. If all the goals of unions are so lofty and noble, why can they not be accomplished by peaceful and non-coercive means?
We live in a fallen world, and so coercion is sometimes necessary (and when it is, it is authorized by Scripture). I should not feel bad that our laws “coerce” potential thieves, rapists, and murderers. In effect, organized coercion like this is legitimate because it is taking a stand against free lance coercion, against anarchistic coercion. Lawful coercion is bounded and defined by the law of God. Unlawful coercion likes to justify itself in accordance with what it can get away with. So far unions have been getting away with a lot. Why has a phrase like the “prosperity of Detroit” become a laughing matter?
Someone might ask then if it is a sin to belong to a union. Well, no, it is not a sin to be coerced, any more than it is a sin to be captured by pirates. But I would be willing to say that it is a sin to organize a union. It is wrong to celebrate it.