Contemporary Unionism as a Fraternal Conceit? A Review of George C. Leef's Free Choice for Workers: A History of the Right-to-Work Movement


With the publication of Free Choice for Workers: a History of the Right-to-Work Movement, George Leef offers a prudential basis tied to experience coupled with informal logic implicating ultimate values in order to reexamine compulsory labor unions and to contest the justification offered in support of America's labor laws. Leef's perspective delegitimizes compulsory unionism on ethical and empirical grounds. Demonstrating that statutory compulsion fails to direct society down the pathway to progress, the book reveals that the road to serfdom can often be paved by bureaucratic regulation.  Carefully examining history and contemporary events, this book contributes to the richly textured debate about the normative role of unions in a putatively free society.  Aptly appreciated, George Leef's reassessment offers an essentially contractarian and liberal model of labor relations that rests on a vision of individual rights that have a clearly defined, independent existence predating society. From this perspective, George Leef specifies liberty as a desirable good in and of itself which is placed in harm's way by progressive ideals and constructs. Far from operating as an anti-union document, Free Choice for Workers functions as a pro-union manuscript grounded in the conclusion that unions operate as defensible institutions and laudable associations, when and only if, they represent workers who join voluntarily.