The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
For Americans, this one sentence is probably the most importance sentence in their entire life. Unfortunately, many don't even realize it. Sadly, a whole 30% of Americans cannot identify a single protection granted to them by the First Amendment. If that's not sad enough, only 14% of people can identify what is, to me, the most important protection: the right of assembly.
Now, you are all probably wondering, "why is the right of assembly so important?" We "all" know about the freedoms of religion and speech and the press, and those are definitely the ones that get most of the airtime. I mean, it makes sense that the press would tout their own rights and protections, and I think it is great when any information about rights and protections gets disseminated. But forgetting about the freedom of assembly is a costly mistake for our future liberties.
Quite simply, the freedom of assembly is as follows: You are free to choose with whom you assemble for whatever cause you wish. Furthermore, it protects your right to not assemble with someone should you disagree with those causes. While it's the separation of church and state that lets us believe what we want, it's the right of assembly that lets us go to church. In fact, it is the freedom of assembly that lets us do, or rather not do, whatever we please. If we want to go bowling, government may be able to regulate that sport, but it cannot prevent us from pursuing it. It is the freedom of assembly that lets us choose the jobs we want, or avoid those that we don't. In general, it is the freedom of assembly that protects our rights to interact with, or choose not to interact with, any human being in this country.
And sadly, we are seeing these rights being trampled on.
Employees in only 22 states have the right to say "No" to union membership. These "Right-to-Work" states have recognized, either through legislation or the their state's constitution, the U.S. Constitutional right to freedom of assembly, and therefore the freedom to choose to be a part of, or not be a part of, a union. However, the other 28 refuse to recognize this basic right. Unfortunately, this is not a meaningless refusal.
By forcing employees to join the unions of their workplace, the states forcefully rob the individuals through the payment of membership dues. Not only do these dues support a needless union bureaucracy, the dues in many cases go towards the political campaigns of politicians the unwitting member may not support. In fact, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union contributed over $50 million dollars to Democrats in the 2010 elections. I would wager that not every employee in the AFSCME votes Democrat. But, unwittingly perhaps, their union dues are voting the other direction. Indeed, the states are saying to their employees: if you work here, your money will be contributed to the campaigns of Democrats. Even though the Constitution protects the freedom of association, these states decide to ignore it.
Upon further analysis, you can see why. It is primarily Democratic states that reject the right-to-work laws. If they were to yield to the Constitution, they would lose a major source of campaign contributions. Furthermore, they are able to keep a hold of this sad abuse of power because many of their well-assuming citizens don't realize that the actions of their state are unconstitutional.
On the other side of the fence, a pro-union employee might say: "what about companies? They use the money they collect from their customers and clients to influence the political process!" And I would agree. However, there is a significant difference here. If I don't like the way one company spends my money, I can vote with my wallet and not shop there. If I don't like the way my union is spending my money, I can't vote with my wallet. For a single workplace, a union holds an anti-competitive monopoly.
Furthermore, I can't simply abstain by withholding my money (dues). My only recourse is to leave the union, which therefore means leaving that job. In effect, the local union is a state-sponsored monopoly, and I have no way of breaking it apart. If states supported businesses with multiple unions, and allowed unions to compete for workers in the same way that store compete for customers, then that would be something. However, unless states recognize the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly, and allow workers to say "no" to unions, then we all have a problem.