Meet John Doe: Unions are an extension of your rights of free speech, freedom to assemble

Editor’s note: As he has become more of a regular contributor, Paul Gorski’s columns will now appear under the column title “Meet John Doe.” The title comes from the 1941 film of the same name. As Gorski explained in an e-mail: “The story is about a fictionalized victim of society ‘John Doe,’ popularized by ghost-written letters to the editor, who is eventually portrayed by a real, average man. ‘John Doe’ goes on a tour of speaking engagements, and ‘the central message of the Doe speeches is “Love Thy Neighbor,” though, conceived in cynicism, the speeches strike so responsive a chord with the public that John Doe clubs pop up all over the country.’ Quote from A central message of the film is that we can each accomplish good if we all work together and put aside our biases and differences.”

By Paul Gorski

There’s much coverage in the press these days about gun rights, abortion rights and freedom of religion, but also much union bashing. Seems some people feel unions are to blame for our local and state budget crises. That is simply not true.

First and foremost, unions are an extension of your rights to free speech and freedom to assemble. You may not like unions, you may love them, or you may be indifferent to them. However, if you allow others to restrict your rights to organize, you’re giving up your fundamental rights little by little, whether you belong to a union or not. I say you must defend these rights, whether you agree 100 percent with union policies or not.

While union benefit payments are part of some government budget problems, they are not the cause. Who negotiates those pension and benefit packages? Your elected politicians and their staffs. Who spent the benefit contributions instead of depositing them into benefit fund accounts? Your elected leaders. If you want to improve the system, elect leaders who are better contract negotiators and fund managers — don’t blame the unions.

Suppliers and distributors are allowed to negotiate business terms, so why can’t unions? Microsoft, as a supplier of the DOS and Windows computer operating systems, had extremely restrictive agreements with PC manufacturers at the dawn of desktop computers. The agreements were so restrictive that it was economically unfeasible to sell computers with a competitor’s operating system. It was Microsoft or nothing. Later, Wal-Mart began dictating how its suppliers were to label, package and even palletize products for its stores. If you didn’t, Wal-Mart wouldn’t carry the product.

Over time, both companies have had to moderate their business practices, as their business partners became better negotiators.

I don’t admire these companies, but I don’t deny them the right to exist, nor should anyone deny you the right to organize under union leadership.

After all, unions are simply suppliers, suppliers of talent and labor. As suppliers of labor, unions should be allowed to negotiate wages and benefits on behalf of their members, just as long as they bargain in good faith.

Again, your business and/or elected leaders must take the lead in any contract negotiations to ensure fair and reasonable terms.

Unions are not unlike business co-ops that also negotiate “on behalf of their members,” but I don’t hear anyone bad-mouthing business cooperatives or the protections they offer their members.

As member-centric organizations, unions and business cooperatives share many of the same values: member participation; shared economic benefits, education and training of members; and concern for the community. So, cut the unions some slack and protect your own rights at the same time.

You can learn more about business cooperatives at, and you’ll find more information about the economic importance of unions at my website,

Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.

From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue

8 thoughts on “Meet John Doe: Unions are an extension of your rights of free speech, freedom to assemble

  • Aug 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

    How can Paul Gorski believe anything he said in this commentary?
    Who is the cause of the (used to be big 3) being shut out by Toyota, Honda, Hyndia, Kia.BMW, Mercedies, VW?
    What does Mr. Gorski believe is the reason for this. maybe UAW? All of thses companies are manufacturing in ths USA without any “UNION” help.
    James C. Davis

  • Aug 1, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I don’t have a problem with unions in the commercial world, but unions in the Government work forces is WRONG. Look at Slim-o-nois for example. Policitians cater to, and give away the farm to unions in an attempt to bribe them for their support.

    Average citizens like me are screwed, the politicians do whats best for their careers, the unions do whats best for them, and the taxpayer????? Oh well, he or she is screwed.

  • Aug 2, 2012 at 5:50 am

    I think that we agree on one thing. A man has the God given right to be free, that’s what The United States was founded on.
    Thomas Jefferson said ““a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
    I believe every working person has the right to choose if they want to be in a “Union” or not.
    If the “Union” believed in the rights of people to make their own decision every company, every government agency would have the right to an open election to decide if they wanted to be in a “Union” or not.
    With all that said: You have not addressed the “Corruption in the “Union”. How about the NLRB and their ties to the “Union”
    Google: Obama pick for NLRB was top lawyer for union tainted by mob ties, history of corruption
    By Doug McKelway
    Published June 22, 2012
    Tell me the UAW. AFL-CIO, IUOE, TEACHERS UNION all believe that a person has the right of freedom of “Choice”
    If you can condone the “UNION” with information like this I guess we are way to far apart in believing a person has the right to choose his own destiny.
    I was forced to pay “Union Dues” once when I took a teaching position with the Wisconsin College System. I only stayed 1 year and have worked the rest of my life with companies where I didn’t have to pay to work, and all of these companies make a profit and have to account to the “Government” every year what was taken in and pay taxes, does any of the “Unions” mentioned above pay taxes? I think most of them are non profit originations.
    James C. Davis

  • Aug 3, 2012 at 7:34 am

    You didn’t even mention the“Corruption in the “Union”. How do you really believe the “Unions” are crime free. Do you think this part of union is ok? Where is Jimmy Hoffa Sr. Do you think Jimmy Hoffa jr. might know.
    Like I said before Who is John Gault. Between the obama communist government & the communist unions, where do you think this Great County is going? I still believe the Great United States working people should free to work without have to pay dues to Corrupt Unions. If the working people want to organize I have no problem with that. Make ever state in the United States a RTW state and see how the “Unions” make out. If Illinois was a RTW state maybe there would be companies that would move here, expand here and the Chicago Unions that run this state would,t have to raise my & your income taxes 66 2/3% every year to pay the union pensions & health care.

  • Aug 15, 2012 at 11:33 am


    Please explain the basis of this column! Without it, it is senseless ink wasted by the Times.

  • Aug 15, 2012 at 11:45 am


  • May 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    This was my first column under the title of “Meet John Doe” and it drew quite a bit of criticism. I’m not quite sure readers understood the connection between workers organizing to protect their rights against organized corporate interests working against the working class.

    Whether you agree with unions or not, unions remain one effective tool for protecting our rights against those interests who believe the working man is dirt. While not perfect, unions do work to protect our free speech rights.

    The recent McCutcheon court ruling,, further illustrates how corporate interests are working to erode and eventually erase our free speech rights.

    Thank you for reading the Rock River Times.

  • May 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    And the Rock River Times is all about free speech!

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