Conservatives do not actually care about freedom of contract

Complain about working conditions and pay around a conservative and you are sure to hear the following: you agree to those working conditions and pay by choosing to work there. Nevermind that that may be your only employment option or all other employment options have similar working conditions and pay. So long as you choose to work somewhere, the conditions that go along with working there are voluntarily accepted.

At least, they are voluntary until it comes to the requirement to pay union dues. Then it’s a different story. When unions sign a contract with an employer, they typically establish something called dues check-off. Under dues check-off, the employer deducts union dues from employees’ paychecks and sends them directly to the union. This process is preferred because it is much more efficient and prevents people from free-riding, i.e. utilizing the union representation without helping to fund it.

Conservatives do not like this. So they establish right-to-work laws. They even go so far as claiming that dues check-off violates worker’s free speech rights because unions might use those dues for political reasons. Samuel Alito’s latest Supreme Court opinion includes such an argument, even though the case had nothing to do with that issue.

But how on earth does this violate anyone’s free speech rights? Don’t people voluntarily choose to work at a place, thereby accepting all its conditions? Don’t people have the option of quitting their job and working somewhere else? If people do not want to pay union dues, then they shouldn’t work at a place that requires them to be paid. Right?

The reality is that conservatives do not really care about the freedom of contract nonsense they talk about when it comes to workplace coercion. If the coercion involves management stomping on workers, then everything is fine because the workers agree to it. If the coercion involves mandatory union dues, then a horrible rights violation has occurred. What a joke.