Modern unions wrap themselves in the human rights vernacular of voluntary association. Individual rights to form organizations, enter into agreements with each other, etc. A “rights” justification for an evolution from the monopolist “guilds” of earlier centuries.
Classical guilds (e.g. the stonemasons) had both legal associations (built on voluntary organization, contracts, common interests, family ties, etc.) and illicit (nominally illegal) associations (built on coercion, e.g. “If you’re a blacksmith, you have to join or else.”).
What changed from classical guilds to modern unions (with early 20th c. legislation like the National Labor Relations Act) was that the “or else” became legal.
After the NLRA, with a single union organized election (simple majority ruling), employees permanently lost (1) the choice to be a member or not, to negotiate their own wages/hours, to pay union dues or not… Lost most choice beyond their option to cast a ballot or quit.
This coercion has weakened over time (e.g. “right to work” laws), but the heart of unions remains their National Labor Relations Board connection and the consequential ability to bring legal force against “non-compliant” employers and workers.
Modern NLRA unionization legalized a “tyranny of the majority” in our workplaces, reducing individual liberty and devaluing personal initiative.
(1) Unionization is almost never reversed. Annual rate of “decertification” (defined as active election to rescind union representation, thus union membership drop not due to layoffs from or failure of companies with union representation) for sample year 2010 was 0.04% (approx.). In 2010, 6,200 employees were decertified after a member vote (National Labor Relations Board, FY2010, Table 15C) versus 14,700,000 total nationwide union membership (Bureau of Labor Statistics, FY2010, Union Members Summaryf).