By Duane Campbell
While labor won big in the 2012 elections, we did not win everywhere. Labor did not win in Michigan. Republican legislators in Michigan on Thursday passed so called Right-To-Work legislation for private sector work by six votes in the Senate and the House. The governor has indicated he will sign the bill. A following bill restricting public sector workers is following close behind in the lame duck session.
From: Kitchen table economics: in DSA’s Democratic Left. Winter 2012.What is Right To Work? What motivates and who funds these state campaigns against organized labor? Answer: In states that have adopted so called Right To Work, annual wages and benefits are about $1,500 lower than for comparable workers in non-RTW states—for both union and nonunion workers. And the odds of getting health insurance or a pension through one’s job are also lower. (1)
Right to work (RTW) is a misleading slogan. It does not guarantee anyone a job, that is a right to work. Rather, it makes it illegal for unions to require that each worker who benefits from a union contract pays his or her fair share of the costs of administering that contract.
“Right to Work” is a propaganda title that unfortunately the corporate owned has successfully branded and the media repeats day by day. We should avoid repeating the phrase. Instead we should call it what it is, an assault on unions.
For an excellent description of the anti labor campaign in Michigan this week see Roland Zullo, Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations ,University of Michigan
The right to negotiate for a fair wage and decent working conditions should be available to all workers. Republican politicians are trying to take this basic right away in several states. The way to fix the economy isn’t to lay off workers, slash their salaries and benefits, and retirement plans of people who have been paying into retirement for over thirty years. But, that is what politicians in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Hampshire and other states are doing as they pass so called “Right to Work” legislation in their states.
It is time to restore some balance between management and working people, starting with making certain that everyone has a voice and a seat at the table.
By making it harder for workers’ organizations to have staff and to sustain themselves financially, RTW laws undermine unions’ bargaining strength and workers political participation.
Twenty-two states—predominantly in the South —already have right-to-work laws, mostly dating from the McCarthy era. Since the Republican sweep of state legislatures in 2010, a coalition of corporate lobbies, right wing anti-worker politicians and extremists including Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers have sponsored RTW legislation and similar attacks on unions in dozens of states. When they can’t win the entire case they often introduce other “paycheck deception bills” to limit unions participation in elections.
The great American middle class did not just happen. It was built, brick by brick. It was built by the hard work of our parents and grandparents and the unions which represented them, which created the 40 hour work weak, paid vacations, and wages that were once the envy of the world. We should be reining in the big banks and corporations that wrecked our economy, not going after working people and their unions, whether they work on a farm, in a factory, or in a classroom or library.
But in this economy workers and unions are under siege. In many states we are fighting the greatest class warfare in over 100 years. And, we can expect little help from the Republicans in the political system that has aided the looting of the country. An essential step is for all of us to support unions and working people in defeating these anti worker bills.
1. The Economic Policy Institute 2011 http://www.epi.org/publication/bp299/