‘Right to Work’ Agenda Defeated in Missouri

Bipartisan opposition leads to defeat of unnecessary and divisive national agenda of “Right to Work” and Paycheck deception legislation in 2014 Session

Time wasted on pointless attacks would be better spent on creating jobs and improving outcomes for Missourians.

RTWiswrongJEFFERSON CITY – As the closing bell rings on the 2014 Session, Missourians can be relieved that commonsense bipartisanship prevented two major attacks on Missouri workers from moving forward. “Right to Work” and paycheck deception bills were priorities of Missouri extremists and a small group of Washington D.C. lobbyists. Members of the We Are Missouri Coalition had this to say about the end of session:

“It is easy to be cynical about politics, but the true bipartisan effort that defeated “right to work” and paycheck deception this year is something Missourians can take to heart, said Mike Louis, Missouri AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer. “Members of both parties were willing to stand up to well-funded national groups pushing these unfair and pointless legislative attacks. Equally inspiring, thousands of working Missourians got involved and their handwritten letters, phone calls, emails and visits to Jefferson City had a big impact on their elected officials. Let’s hope that looking ahead, even more of our elected leaders are willing to stand up to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda and listen to the people who live and work here in the Show Me State.”

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STUDY: Missouri Workers Would Lose “Between $4.58 and $6 Billion Annually” Under ‘Right-to-Work’

by Chaz Bolte

cl_RTW_For_Less_NoD_271c8Rule one in the “Right-to-Work” implementation playbook is to tie its potential passage to an inevitable economic rebound.  Yet, history has shown that “Right-to-Work” is more of an economic slow bleed than a miracle maker.

As the Missouri state legislature prepares to debate the merits of becoming the 25th “Right-to-Work” state in the U.S., it is important for the general public to understand the ramifications of such a path. And a new report released Monday by University of Missouri-Kansas City professor Michael Kelsay helps with that very task, concluding that “Right-to-Work” laws would severely harm Missouri’s middle class workers.  The numbers for statewide income loss? In the billions. Continue reading

Workers’ Labor Needs to be Defined More in Terms of Property Rather than Commodities

Oren Levin -Waldman

Oren Levin -Waldman

When states pass right-to-work laws, they claim that they are creating working conditions conducive to choice. Workers can choose to join a union or not, but because these laws effectively bar closed shops workers are no longer coerced to join unions. Opponents of these laws point out the obvious: because unionization efforts have been made more difficult, the power of unions is diminished, and so too are the legitimate rights of workers. And yet, right-ro-work laws rest on a fundamental assumption which has long permeated American labor law. That is, employers have property rights while workers do not. Hence the asymmetrical balance of power between workers and their employers.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was so important when it was passed in 1935 because it called for collective-bargaining as a means to prevent labor strife and instability in labor markets. By threatening to strike, which was now legal, employers would be forced to bargain with their employees. Prior to passage of the NLRA, employers could easily assert their property rights and claim that unions and strikes were an infringement of those rights. The courts originally took the position that unions were illegal because they violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by creating labor monopolies in restraint of free trade. Nobody would deny that they were monopolies, but institutional economists maintained that so long as workers had neither power nor property rights, they needed a measure of bargaining power that only unions and collective bargaining could afford them. Then when states attempted to pass maximum hours and minimum wage laws, which would effectively grant a measure of monopoly bargaining power to those not covered by collective bargaining agreements, the courts held them to be a violation of liberty of contract. Continue reading

Propelled By ALEC, ‘Right-to-Work’ Assault on Unions Reaches Pennsylvania

by Bruce Vail

Pennsylvania labor is primed for the fight: An April 11, 2011 Teamsters rally against previous right-to-work legislation drew some 400 protestors to the state Capitol.   (The Rick Smith Show / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Pennsylvania labor is primed for the fight: An April 11, 2011 Teamsters rally against previous right-to-work legislation drew some 400 protestors to the state Capitol. (The Rick Smith Show / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Backed by powerful national business interests, conservative legislators in Pennsylvania announced last week a new push to bring so-called “right-to-work” laws to the Keystone state. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said January 22 that he and five other Republican legislators would introduce a package of bills aimed at crippling the ability of labor unions to collect dues from members.

Pennsylvania labor leaders say the package is part of a broad assault on labor that began in 2010 when the GOP won control of the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. Continue reading

UAW’s Bob King: Expanding the Fight Against Michigan’s Anti-Worker Forces

By Bruce Vail

Several hundred labor activists gathered last week in Lansing, Mich., for a frigid but boisterous protest of Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address. Their intention was not to disrupt the speech, but to remind Snyder that he has awakened a deep and abiding anger among the state’s labor leaders and their allies. Snyder can count on many more such reminders in the coming months, Michigan labor sources say, as unions carry out plans to reverse the anti-worker initiatives Snyder has sponsored in the last six weeks, and push back against the big business forces that stand behind him. Continue reading

What’s Next for Michigan Unions?

By Bruce Vail

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed two anti-union bills into law on December 11, but unions may be able to use a loophole to buy time.   (Michigan Municipal League/Flickr/Creative Commons)

The fight over the anti-union law passed in Michigan on December 11 is far from over, according to both labor leaders and anti-union partisans. Labor organizations are working to both delay its effects and reverse its passage.

Bill Black, legislative director of the 40,000-member Michigan Teamsters Joint Council 43, tells Working In These Times that the law will be challenged by a number of unions in state courts and by legislators in next year’s session. The hurried manner in which the so-called “right-to-work” legislation was jammed through the state house is of dubious legality, he says.

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Right to Work for Less and the Destruction of Solidarity

by Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Joe Burns

To some the passage of the right to work for less legislation in the union stronghold of Michigan signals the strength of labor’s enemies. Sure enough, the passage of the right to work for less bill in Michigan represents the power of money and influence. Even though they lost in the election, the right wing continues its relentless attack against what remains of the labor movement. But that is nothing new.

To others, the passage signals union weakness. Certainly this was the main message of the mainstream news, with NPR and the New York Times running pieces discussing how the passage demonstrated union weakness. Again, that is too obvious to be our takeaway. With lockouts at record levels and employer-provoked strikes successfully garnering concessions, that we are getting our asses kicked should be readily apparent.

No, the main lesson we should take from the Michigan defeat is how completely and utterly messed up labor’s current strategies are and have been for decades. It should be a wakeup call for the labor movement that no business as usual will be tolerated and an opportunity to question the underlying premises of modern trade unionism.

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What Would a Real ‘Right to Work’ Look Like?

by David Kaib

I just asked this question on Twitter, and realized I wasn’t going to be able to explain it  in 140 characters.  So I thought I’d elaborate here. First, the question:


There has been a lot of talk about how we need to reframe the horribly inaptly named “right to work” laws, which essentially require unions to represent workers who refuse to join or otherwise support the union in any way.  Since no one is ever required to join a union, this whole framing in nonsense, a cover for a policy designed to weaken unions that can’t be defended on the merits.

‘Right to work for less’ is a common one, but it is fairly clunky.  I like the idea of ‘loafer laws’ or even better, ‘freeloader laws’ (that one is from Matt Bruenig) which emphasize the free rider problem here.  I also like ‘no rights at work’ law.  Regardless, the question I’m asking is a different one.

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“Right to Work” : A Body Blow, Not a Death Blow

by Street Heat

The signing of “right to work for less” in Michigan is another stark reminder to us all how deep the crisis of labor is. As if we needed another. The fact that the supporters of “right to work” could garner enough votes to pass such a bill in Michigan underscores the determination of our enemies and the extent to which the decline of labor density has weakened labor’s ability to fend off attacks, even in our strongholds.

Right to work will not kill the labor movement in Michigan. If enacted, it will however weaken it substantially. This makes keeping up pressure in the streets, courts and all other points possible to defeat its implementation is essential. There is also still time to mitigate and undo the damage done through a variety of legal and legislative strategies. While the fight is far from ending in Michigan, we must look soberly at our priorities as a movement.

Going forward with the effort to beat back and repeal “right to work” is both necessary and makes sense. The same can be said for the other states who have recently passed or partially passed attacks on the labor movement. In many cases these states will see many of the Republicans who snuck into office in 2010 under false pretenses kicked to the curb in 2014. The energy created by the movements against the attacks on labor and working people represents a movement that has awoken from it’s slumber and this new energy will lead to our taking the offensive both politically and in organizing if our leaderships take advantage of it.

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“Right to work” laws undermine democracy

With recent developments in Michigan, these words from the 1930s are surprisingly relevant. They present a case that is too rarely made–so called “right to work laws” are not only harmful to living standards and union strength, they are also profoundly undemocratic. Interestingly, 70 years ago “right to work” had a different meaning. It was used the justify the demand of companies that state police and militia be used to break strikes and support scabs.–Talking Union.

by Alfred Baker Lewis

SWOCFaced with the rising demand for unionization among employees in order to get halfway decent conditions incur the autocratic power of the owners of industry, employers, and their spokesmen in the newspapers and elsewhere try to confuse the issue in the minds of uninformed people by making certain demands or changes in the law which sound logical but which are intended to hamstring the unions, destroy their effectiveness,and preserve the employers autocratic economic power.

Employers talk about the “tyranny of the closed shop” and the tyranny of the unions in requiring every worker in a union shop to pay dues in order to hold his job. They demand that strikes for the closed shop be made illegal and in particular want to make illegal the “check off” through which did union dues are deducted by the employer from the workers’ pay.

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