Many fast-food workers and other advocates of an increase in government-mandated minimum wage recently protested across America, demanding that government force employers to pay all fast-food workers at least $15 per hour. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the protests were organized by Fast-Food Forward, a group backed by the Service Employees International Union. The demonstrations were part of a two-year campaign by fast-food workers allegedly seeking “to gain the right to organize.”
First, observe that that latter goal is a red herring intended to make their unreasonable demands sound reasonable. There is no law against “the right to organize.” The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of association, and the demonstrations themselves, of course, were organized. The workers in question already have the right to join unions and to ask for higher wages. So what is this movement really about?
The “rights” sought by the union are the “freedom” not to associate voluntarily, but to violate the rights of employers to run their businesses as they see fit and to enter into voluntary, mutually consensual contracts with employees. Specifically, the union wants to use the force of government, mainly the Wagner Act, to coerce some people to join unions and to coerce business owners to “bargain” with unions under threat of government penalties if the owners do not concede to union demands.
But business owners have a moral right to bargain with union representatives—or not to do so—according to their own judgment regarding how best to run their businesses. If employees or unions of employees present demands that business owners regard as contrary to their self-interest, the owners have a moral right to reject those demands. Likewise, if business owners offer terms that employees or unions of employees regard as contrary to their self-interest, the employees have a moral right to quit and seek work elsewhere. As long as neither party breaches a voluntarily contractual agreement, neither has any legitimate reason to marshal the government’s guns.
No individual or group has a moral right to drag another party to the “bargaining” table by government force.