The Workers’ Rights Folly

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.” — Martin Luther King

The liberal, leftist advocates of workers’ rights claim that workers have a right to work, to a daily wage, to health care, to a good work condition, etc. In the Philippines, these rights are being guaranteed by the Labor Code.

What do these alleged ‘rights’ imply? They imply that workers, through the help and protection of laws, have the right to enslave their employers.

Article XIII of the Constitution, entitled Labor, states:

“Section 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and  promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all

“It shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law.

“The State shall promote the principle of shared responsibility between workers and employers and the preferential use of voluntary modes in settling disputes, including conciliation, and shall enforce their mutual compliance therewith to foster industrial peace.

“The State shall regulate the relations between workers and employers, recognizing the right of labor to its just share in the fruits of production and the right of enterprises to reasonable returns to investments, and to expansion and growth.”

According to legal experts, there are two main functions of government: Constituent function and Ministrant function. This binary state function actually blasts the American classical mandate that the only proper role of government is to protect rights.

Constituent function, which is compulsory, is akin to the rights-protecting role of government. Among the constituent functions are as follows:

  • The keeping of order and providing for the protection of persons and property from violence, fraud and crimes.
  • The fixing of legal relations between husband and wife and between parents and children.
  • Protection of property rights and the determination of liabilities for debts or for crimes.
  • The determination of contractual rights between individuals.
  • The definition of punishment for crimes.
  • The administration of justice in civil cases.
  • The administration of political duties, privileges and relations of citizens.
  • The dealings of the State with foreign powers; the preservation of the State from external danger or encroachment and the advancement of its international interests.

Ministrant functions, on the other hand, are those adopted or carried out to promote the so-called general interests of society, such as regulation of trade and industry, public charity, and public works.

The Supreme Court, in the case of Agricultural Credit v. ACCFA, reiterated its theory of “growing complexities of modern society” as a justification for repudiating the residual- or to be more precise, ‘pretended’- laissez-faire policy in the Constitution. The Court declares, to wit:

“The growing complexities of modern society, however, have rendered this traditional classification of the functions of government quite unrealistic, not to say obsolete. The areas which used to be left to private enterprise and initiative and which the government was called upon to enter optionally, and only “because it was better equipped to administer for the public welfare than is any private individual or group of individuals,”5 continue to lose their well-defined boundaries and to be absorbed within activities that the government must undertake in its sovereign capacity if it is to meet the increasing social challenges of the times. Here as almost everywhere else the tendency is undoubtedly towards a greater socialization of economic forces. Here of course this development was envisioned, indeed adopted as a national policy, by the Constitution itself in its declaration of principle concerning the promotion of social justice.”

In his book titled Political Law, former associate justice Isagani Cruz made the following obviously ‘sarcastic’ commentary:

“Thus it is now obligatory on the part of the State to promote social justice, to provide adequate social services to promote a rising standard of living, to afford protection to labor, to formulate and implement urban and agrarian reform programs, and to adopt other measures intended to ensure the dignity, welfare and security of its citizens. It is also required to establish and maintain a complete, adequate and fully integrated system of education, to offer free elementary and secondary education, to promote scientific research and invention, and to patronize arts and letters and develop Filipino culture for national identity. These functions, while traditionally regarded as merely ministrant and optional, have been madecompulsory by the Constitution.”

The Court said the State “was better equipped to administer for the public welfare than is any private individual or group of individuals”… We only have reality as our absolute arbiter. Reality proves that after decades of implementation, our Welfare State produced nothing but a higher degree of poverty, dependence, corruption, and social malady. It seems that even the court of last resort cannot be trusted when it comes to securing or protecting our rights, freedom and future.

Without a doubt, the pro-labor provisions in the Constitution have been influenced by the collectivist-statist concept of social justice.

Most of laws and legislation pertaining to workers’ rights can be traced to FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. This is why I strongly, absolutely believe that the BEST CONSTITUTION in the world is America’s charter. The only rights of workers are contained in the BILL OF RIGHTS.

Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that everyone has the right to work. Article 23 of the UHDR states:

  • Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Now, if you claim that there are such things as workers’ rights, then in the name of fairness, employers should also be entitled to employers’ rights. Am I right?

The rights of workers are essentially part of INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. This means that you do not acquire any better right by joining a workers’ union, an association, or a gang. The concept of workers’ rights is actually hinged on Karl Marx’s class warfare rhetoric. It pits the working class against the providers of jobs or employers.

However, this doesn’t mean that I disagree with unionism. I believe that that’s part of individuals’ or workers’ right to association. As long as your aim is not to transgress upon the rights of others and not to ask for government help and protection, you’re doing the right thing.

But allow me explain further why there is no such thing as workers’ rights and why I said those alleged rights are part of their individual rights.

  • There is what we call EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT. I know some people are old and mature enough to understand the nature and purpose of this contract. This means that before you get hired, you’re asked to sign a contract which states the nature of your work or job description, your legal relationship with your employer, the amount of your salary, the conditions of your employment, etc. This contract is VALID and binding upon the parties who signed it.
  • You may form a union provided it is permitted by your employment contract. I believe a business owner has the right to prohibit or allow the formation of unions within his business premises. There are businesses that allow the formation of unions and associations because they believe that workers’ unions or associations could boost employee loyalty and productivity.
  • Your employer is not your slave, or vice versa. The mere fact that someone puts up a business and employs people doesn’t give the government the right to regulate it and consider it a potential evil or social menace or rights-violator.
  • Your right to daily wage is stipulated in your employment contract. No man in his right mind would ever enter a contract that’s so disadvantageous to his rights and interests. Under a free market system, you have the choice not to sign a contract and look for a better job. That’s the concept of free trade in employment. If your employer didn’t provide or refused to provide your monthly wage or any monetary benefits stipulated in your employment contract, you have the right to sue your employer and ask for damages.
  • There is no such thing as a right to work. Any right to work law implies that employers or job-providers may be obliged by law to provide jobs to unemployed people even if that’s against their will. The government should have no right at all to tell business-owners how to run their business. There is this ‘business judgment’ theory that recognizes employers’ right to run or manage their business according to their sound business decisions and prerogatives.
  • If an employer committed abuses, exploitation, and crimes penalized by law at the workplace, then the victims have the right of action against that erring employer or business. In fact, these crimes are covered by the Revised Penal Code that we no longer need more regulations against business. Regulations simply regard employers as potential evil-doers or social menace. It’s the government that must be regulated in the first place.
  • This is why the only proper role of government is to protect rights. If an employer or a business entity committed fraud or crimes, it is the proper role of government to step in so to punish the guilty and protect the victim. Instead of creating more regulations that make job creation and wealth creation almost impossible, why not strengthen law courts and the rule of law?

Observe that before anyone enters the workplace, there’s this employment contract to be signed by the employee and his employer. The purpose of a contract, which is a meeting of the minds between two persons whereby one binds himself, with respect to the other, to give something or to render some services, is to protect the contractual parties’ rights. The principle behind this requisite agreement is individual’s right to contract, which is one of the most important legal instruments in trade. Such concepts as the “right to enter into contract, “right to trade”, and “right to put up a business” imply one thing: the right of ACTION, as these rights do not impose any obligation on others. The right to contract does not oblige any party to make a sacrifice or to serve without receiving any form of compensation, as this right does not sanction involuntary servitude. The parties in a contract aim to trade value for value, and the law states that for a contract to be valid and binding upon the parties, it must have the following elements: consent of the contracting parties, object certain which is the subject matter of the contract, and cause of the obligation which is established. Absent any of these elements a contract is considered invalid and unenforceable.

By contrast, a “legislated right to work” or right to work law imposes an obligation on others to provide jobs. I have to distinguish between a “legislated right to work” and “non-legislated right to work”. The first means there is a law requiring jobless, unemployed people to be provided jobs. Such a law authorizes the state to create a regulatory climate that would coerce businesses to comply with the law’s provisions.

I believe the only role of government is to interfere in case of breach of contract or case crimes or fraud have been committed by any party. The reason why there’s an employment contract is for parties to stipulate their conditions, desires, objectives, and wishes. Any businessman who attempts to turn a contract into a one-sided agreement in which he stands to gain benefits would not exist on a free market. After all employees still have the freedom to look for better employment opportunities.

The idea that the government must regulate or must be involved in an employer-employee relationship implies that the contracting parties (employer and employee) are not competent, trustworthy, careful, and sane enough to protect their rights and interests. This is why the ideological proponents and clueless supporters of right to work laws and workers’ rights legislation suffer from a self-inflicted delusion, as they believe they possess competence and omnipotent power to plan a highly complex market.

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