The inverse of Scott Walker’s statement about collective bargaining

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and presidential wannabe, has made an interesting statement on collective bargaining:

Walker told reporters that collective bargaining is “not a right, but is an expensive entitlement” and cited the cost savings in Wisconsin as a benefit to all taxpayers in the state.

That’s the quote from CBS News in their article on the public debate on collective bargaining between himself and President Obama. It turns out that most of Walker’s notoriety as a candidate comes from his war on collective bargaining and unions in general. He is most famous for the union-busting bill known as Act 10. Act 10 was passed in response to a large state government budget deficit in 2011.

The most significant feature of the law affects who is required to pay dues. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. This is the “right-to-work” clause that is killing unions in Wisconsin.

Economist Dean Baker has provide thoughtful analysis of that provision here. In summary, the law allows workers who do not contribute dues to the union to benefit from union contracts. This is, in essence, a violation of the right to collective bargaining. It is, for all intensive purposes, government intervention in the market in favor of business. It is not the free market at work.

If Scott Walker truly believes that collective bargaining is not a right, then the inverse must be true, too. What is the inverse? The inverse of his statement, that collective bargaining is not a right is not what you’d expect.

An employer, acting as single entity, makes contracts with many employees. He is, in a sense, engaged in collective bargaining. Like a union contract, it is a one to many relationship. A union can have a single contract with many employers. Likewise, a single employer can have a contract with many employees.

Therefore, if collective bargaining is not a right for employees, it is not a right for employers, either. In Scott Walker’s world, if employees don’t have a right to collective bargaining. Conveniently, he forgets to mention that employers do not have the right to hire many employees to do all the tasks needed to run the business if collective bargaining is not a right. You simply can’t have one without the other.

Scott Walker likes to talk about free enterprise and free markets, but he’s not willing to admit that Act 10 is nothing more than government intervention in the market on behalf of business.

Originally published at on September 19, 2015.

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