Last week we reported on new efforts underway in the northwest to implement right-to-work laws. In particular, we reported on a public sector right-to-work initiative proposed for the November 2014 Oregon state ballot, “Oregon ‘Public Employee Choice Act’ Aims for 2014 Ballot.” These efforts will trigger a union funded backlash that will intensify in direct proportion to the probability these reforms may have to be successful. What happened on Sept. 4th in Vancouver, Washington is a sobering, and mild, reminder to reformers of what they are in for. Click on the links, especially the video.

From the Macinack Center website: Two people were arrested Thursday night as part of an anti-worker freedom protest at a policy forum in Vancouver, Wash., jointly sponsored by the Freedom Foundation and the Cascade Policy Institute. The Mackinac Center’s F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director, was the keynote speaker at the event. You can read more about it here. Photos and video can be found here and here.

If you view the video you will see one of the presenters, Vincent Vernuccio from the Mackinac Center, attempt to reason with the protesters. The protesters accuse Vernuccio’s organization of being funded by “big business,” and therefore they must be opposed to the interests of workers, and attempting to crush unions. The protesters claim that Vernuccio doesn’t want to reveal the names of the donors to his organization.

Vernuccio correctly asserts that the donations his organization receives are voluntary, whereas union dues are compulsory. But there is another point worth making, although it may have been wasted in the heat of that debate.

Big business is not necessarily opposed to unions at all. But unions can only thrive in monopolistic environments. Union actions at northwestern ports, as well as at ports in southern California, offer recent and visceral proof of the power of unions who can control the flow of goods. And the ultimate monopoly is the public sector, where unions can elect their own bosses, and have no requirement for their organizations to earn a profit. In the private sector, even in quasi-monopolies, at least the management is not elected by the unions, and at least there are potential competitive threats that compel unions to exercise some restraint in their demands.

The protesters at the meeting on Sept. 4th might ponder this concept:  There is a natural unity of interests between unions, crony capitalists, too-big-to-fail banks, pension funds, bond underwriters, and their friends in government. Opposing these powerful interest groups are productive capitalists who wish to offer competitive products in a free market, offering customers innovative solutions that are better, faster and cheaper. The first group colludes to control markets and raise the cost-of-living for everyone, in exchange for their own enrichment. The second competes in an open market to lower the cost-of-living for everyone, earning a profit in the process. This is an economic choice that doesn’t easily lend itself to simplistic paradigms of left vs. right, or worker vs. owner.

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Public Policy Center and the editor of UnionWatch.

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