September 3, 1964
Miss Deborah A. Baker
Powder Point Avenue
Dear Miss Baker:
Thank you for your letter of August 16th. I remember the book which I autographed for you at the request of Captain Sechrist.
You ask my views on the subject of labor unions. I am enclosing a copy of The Objectivist Newsletter for November 1963: the article by Nathaniel Branden presents our views on this subject.
You seem to be mistaken in your approach to this issue. You ask: “Do you feel these employees are making demands that shouldn’t be made? Or do you feel they also are the contributing factor to the success of big business in this country—and are deserving of certain privileges from the company they work for?”
Any competent man, who does his job well, contributes to the success of a business—but that is not relevant to the question of unions and it is not an issue of “privileges.” It is an issue of individual rights. All men, whether employers or employees, have the right to earn their own living, to pursue their own interests and to deal with one another by means of discussion, persuasion, bargaining and voluntary, uncoerced agreement, to mutual advantage. Employees have the right to form unions, if they do so voluntarily, and to go on strike. An employer has the right to negotiate with them, if he chooses, or to hire other workers. In case of such disagreements, it is the free market that determines who will win and whether the employees’ demands were fair or not.
But today, under our labor laws, both employers and employees are forced to act under government coercion.
Employees are forced to join unions, whether they want to or not—and employers are forced to bargain with unions, whether they want to or not. Therefore, today, the whole field of labor-management relations is unfair and unjust, in basic principle, and violates the rights of all those involved.
You ask whether it is proper for you to represent an employees’ union. Since you have no choice about the labor situation, it is proper for you to take part in union activities and to do the best you can under the
circumstances—that is, be as fair as you can, always remembering the rights of all parties involved. The principle to remember, in this context, is: just as the employees do not work for the sake of the employers, but for the sake of earning their own living, so the employers are not in business for the sake of providing jobs, but for the sake of earning their own living, which means: their profits.
You mention that a representative of Mohawk’s management told you that if you agreed with my philosophy, you shouldn’t be the “representative of a union arguing the cause of employees.” This sounds like the statement of a fool. Apparently, he sees economic relations as a class war in which one must fight either “for businessmen” or “for workers.” This is a view which my philosophy rejects and opposes in its entirety. My philosophy upholds the rights of individual men, on any economic level—not the special privileges of any “class” or group.
I hope that the above will help to clarify the issue in your mind.