‘Right to Work Is a Cancerous Ideology’

Right to Work

Russ Stillwell

GOP leaders in the Republican-majority Indiana General Assembly say passing a right to work law is their top priority in the 2012 session.

Unions call “right to work” the “right to work for less.”

“Right to work is a cancerous ideology,” longtime Hoosier labor leader Russ Stilwell warned the recent 29th biennial convention of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO in Louisville.

Stilwell, 63, is a 41-year UMWA member and vice president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO’s Executive Board. “If the Republicans succeed in Indiana, right to work will spread like a cancer to other states,” he adds.

Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s Republican governor, also favors a right to work law. The GOP holds the most seats in the House and Senate.

Stilwell, from Boonville, sought union support in Kentucky, Indiana’s southern neighbor. Kentucky is not a right to work state.

About 160 union delegates from across the Bluegrass State welcomed Stilwell’s remarks with a standing ovation.

Daniels and the Republicans failed to get a right to work law earlier this year after all but one Democratic House member left the state for 35 days and thousands of union members and supporters from Indiana and other states, including Kentucky, thronged the capitol in Indianapolis. Since then, the legislature passed a law levying $1,000-a-day fines against boycotting legislators.

“The battle is far from over, and we’ve got a tough fight ahead,” Stilwell says, admitting that the term “right to work” can fool even some union members.

Meanwhile, supporters of right to work laws in Indiana and elsewhere make three basic arguments:

  • They bring “democracy” to the workplace by giving workers a choice of whether or not to join a union.
  • They create “good paying jobs.”
  • They “free” workers from making “compulsory” contributions to political campaigns.

All three arguments are false.

Unions are not forced on workers. Workers vote unions in, and they can vote unions out. (Majority rule would continue under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. The measure, the AFL-CIO’s Internet website points out, would “allow workers to form unions and bargain once a majority signs authorization cards….The Employee Free Choice Act would restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain by enabling workers to form unions without the fear, delay and coercion inherent in our current system. Majority sign-up is a long-established way to form a union, dating back to passage of the National Labor Relations Act.”)

Simply put, right to work laws are designed to weaken large unions, destroy small unions, and keep unorganized workers from unionizing.

berry craigRight to work laws undermine unions by prohibiting union security agreements between unions and employers. Under a union security agreement, all non-management workers belong to the union. Or they pay the union a service fee or an amount equivalent to union dues.

In other words, the union supports the workers. In turn, the workers support the union.

But workers don’t have to support political candidates their unions endorse. “Political contributions by union members are voluntary through dues check off,” Stilwell says.

Likewise, workers who pay service fees or money equal to union dues can request that none of their money go for political action, he adds.

Stillwell says right to work supporters always focus their fire on union security agreements.

But the union can’t force a union security agreement on an employer. Union security agreements are bargainable. Union and management agree to them. The union can’t dictate them.

Thus, he thinks it’s ironic that the GOP, which has also declared holy war on “big government,” wants government to dictate labor-management contracts by outlawing union security clauses.

These are the same folks who consistently tell us that government needs to get out of our lives.

Republicans also claim to be big fans of “rugged individualism” and pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps.

Yet right to work laws encourage freeloading. Under a right to work law, workers at a jobsite with a union contract can enjoy union-negotiated and union-won wages and benefits without joining the union or paying a service fee or the equivalent of dues. Even so, unions must represent these non-union employees when they have trouble with the boss.

In addition, right to work laws don’t produce good paying jobs. They are geared to drive down wages.

Paychecks in right to work states are a lot skimpier than they are in non-right to work states.

“In 2009, average pay in so-called ‘right to work’ states was 11.1 percent lower than in states where workers have the freedom to form strong unions,” the AFL-CIO’s website also says, citing numbers from the nonpartisan U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Berry CraigAbsent unions, wages, of course, go down. That’s why unions label “right to work” the “right to work for less.”

Meanwhile, Stilwell, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, says Indiana unions aren’t giving up the fight against right to work.

If these greedy, mean-spirited Republicans succeed, it won’t just be Hoosier workers who get hurt. Republicans will look to Indiana and start pushing right to work in other states. So if we lose, all workers lose.

Berry Craig

About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.

Comments

  1. I worked union jobs for about 26 years and helped organize my chapter of the local. Some people who didn’t want to join the union griped like hades about the dues they would have to pay if they did — they said it was unfairly taking from them. But when I suggested they receive lower wages than the union contract, give up their medical care that we negotiated and protected, the vacation days we negotiated, etc they said no, they should get those things even though they didn’t support the union or pay dues. All they thought they had to do was be finger kissing lackeys to the bosses and that should entitle them to our hard won benefits.

    • Raul Fernandez says:

      Wait until your company goes bankrupt, then none of the workers will have a salary or benefits. Good example of that is GM, and how it went bankrupt over paying millions of dollars in “legacy cost” to union members. Ultimately it’s GM’s fault for agreeing to the contract, but unions will have you think that there is never any harm in being overpaid, as long as it pays you and your family. What a joke, unions are bad unless you are in a union.

  2. A better name for “right to work” is “right to freeload”, since those who don’t pay still get to suck up union funds thanks to unions being required to represent them and eat the cost. What a neat way to make unions financially impossible. Funny to call it a choice when a minority gets to overrule a majority.

    Joining a union is a right. Period.

  3. Unions are the reasons why many states are failing, and jobs are going overseas.

    Funny thing. I live in Texas, a right to work state. We ran unions out of here in the 1980s. Texas is the number one job creator in the country, THANKS to being a right to work state. We also have the lowest cost of living in the country.

    Companies pay wages comparable to union jobs, and the worker isn’t forced to pay union dues. These are good, well paying, durable jobs.

    You notice when overseas automakers relocate to America, they always set up shop in right to work states. They also pay wages in line, or often better, than union pay.

    It’s un-American for a worker to have to pay “tribute” to a bunch of thugs, before they can work. It’s like a store owner paying the mafia for protection, from the mafia! Except the mafia is a better class of thugs.

    This is a civil rights issue. There is no way on earth it’s right to force a human being to pay a middle man, just to have a job.

    Face it, you “progressives” [socialists, communists] are afraid because you know that union thugs stick a gun to a worker’s head [metaphorically] and grab their wallets, then turn around and pay off DEMOCRAT politicians with the poor working man’s dues, even though most union workers don’t vote for democrats.

    If the entire United States was right to work, union thugs like Richard Trumka and Andy Stern would no longer live off the backs of the worker, and the democrat party would dry up.

    We need a national right to work law. Period.

    If workers voluntarily join a union, that’s their God given right. But laws, written by the very politicians the union thugs bribe with workers’ money, forcing American citizens to pay tribute to what amounts to mafia bag men for the democrat party are evil. It must be stopped and stopped now.

    • Blackwater, I get it now. You aren’t as ignorant as you sound because no one is that ignorant, you are just trying to agitate by taking a contrary position. Thanks for making it clear how asinine someone would be for moving to Texas where they could work as virtual low paid wage slaves because of right to work and their families could go without health care, vacation time, and other accommodations that the owners of business take for themselves.

  4. Unions are not all alike. Some really care about their workers and others are in it for the power and glory. As some have stated, you should not be forced to join a union. Additionally, unions are now pushing to do away with secret ballots for organizing a dangerous precedent. No one brings up the point that it was the unions that fought for a secret ballot when employers exercised too much control over the employee. Unions felt, quite rightly, that if the ballot were secret, it would protect the employee from undue influence and allow the member to express his true feelings. Lo and behold, the unions have gotten so strong, they now want to do away with secret ballots because they want to exercise the control that they didn’t want the employers to have in the first place. Such irony should not be lost and the unions should be prevented by Congress from eliminating the secret ballot the unions wanted in the first place. I see nothing wrong with allowing states to decide the issue of “right to work” laws as well.. Some of the southern states that have it are doing quite well without the unions.

  5. I should be free to work where ever. Why should someone force me to join a union in order to get a job. If you want to join, do so and let me have the same choice, join or not to join. You want me to follow your plan and I would rather be free to do what I want to do and not be told I MUST JOIN a UNION. You do not want me telling you that you can not join a union. Let us both follow our own path.

    What would you think of a military union, where the union can or not send troops to a certain location? Unions are not the heaven you image.

    • You are free to work for whomever might decide to hire you, and in a your John Galt nirvana they will be free to fire you at any time for any reason or just on a whim. Unless you are really exceptional, there will probably be some rules. Just one of those might be that you either must or must not join a union. If you don’t like the rules, look for work somewhere else with different rules. The union is there only because most of the employees like it that way, probably because it gives them better pay/benefits/working conditions than they would have otherwise. Sometimes it is also there because it provides better workers, but that does not matter unless you are aiming for a management job, it which case you won’t have to join a union anyway.

      In any case, you are quite free not to join a union by simply working somewhere else. Isn’t that more freedom than forcing others not to have union protection?

      • George, an employer SHOULD be able to fire someone any time for any reason. Unions allow dead beats to hold on to jobs and that hurts the company. You socialists don’t realize that COMPANIES are the one who hire and pay employees. With useless workers, that company’s bottom line suffers. At some point, if they can’t fire useless workers, they go out of business, or pick up and move. Then NO ONE has a job!

        No one is, or should be guaranteed a job. It’s un-American. What you suggest is socialism, which has failed every time it’s been tried. Every socialist and communist nation’s constitution guarantees a job in some way. It never works.

        Look at France. They don’t guarantee a job, but once you get hired, it’s almost impossible to get fired no matter how incompetent, unfit for the job you are. The result? Unreal unemployment among younger workers. Business owners simply refuse to hire anyone unless they absolutely have to. They know once hired, they can never get rid of the employee. Unemployment is 50% or more in some areas among young people. .

        In a free society, this is ludicrous.

        Look, the United States Constitution is a covenant between government and the people. It guarantees our God given rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is meant to restrain government. To keep it from creating situations that stifle our pursuits.

        And that’s the key word “pursuit” The Constitution guarantees we all start out on an equal footing, it doesn’t guarantee an equal outcome. That’s impossible. Not everyone has the same abilities, or even drive to succeed. The best one can do is start out with the same opportunities. And before you cry about rich people. America is STILL the only place one can start out dirt poor and succeed. American history is filled with stories of broke, poorly educated men who became wealthy beyond all dreams, simply because they refused to sit back and cry. Instead they worked hard, created something, and earned their wealth.

        In the socialist utopia you people dream up, where all of the wealth is spread around, and everyone is the “same” , many of the greatest inventions of all time would never exist.

        In the sort of world you dream of, men like Steve Jobs, Micheal Dell, Henry Ford, or any other great men, and women, who have helped change the world, wouldn’t have existed.

        Unions are a cancer on society, at least as they exist now. The reason why the union thugs and their willing accomplices fight so hard to stop a right to work movement is they know given a choice, no one in their right mind would join a union. Most members now only do it at gun point, so to speak. It’s not because they love paying so much of their paycheck for absolutely nothing.

        Come to a right to work state and see for yourself. It’s where the good life exists.

  6. Kristopher Blouir says:

    I am a father of 5 children. Since this economy has fallen it has been a trial to support my family. I have been trying to get in a union for over 18 years. I would give anything to get a great paying job. Now I have our so called wonderful politicians want want to pass a law that gives employer’s more power and give no benefits. Take away safe work environments so the employer makes a bigger profit. That will lead to lower wages. Then for those that want a union job has a worse chance of getting one and the American dream is now gone. We must get this R-T-W stopped and never come up again!! Why do these politicians think they can take away the dreams and let us work for less?? What gives them the right to continue to get rich and vote themselves pay raises and turn around and screw over the working people?

    • Kristopher, if you lived in a right to work state, you’d HAVE a job. Come to Texas, we’re hiring. But leave progressive politics at the door! Texas welcomes everyone, but we’re Conservatives for a reason [it works] and aren’t interested in change.

      We are interested in Liberty and Freedom, and a man’s right to work and feed his family without having to bow at the feet of organized crime for a job.

      • Yeah Christopher, you could go to Texas and get a nice minimum wage job,

      • “The economic winners of the last decade are states that focus on raw materials, government and senior citizens. The big losers are places that make things — industrial states and even California.”
        –USA Todayhttp://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2011-06-20-state-gdp-growth_n.htm

        That’s Texas. It has stuff to pump or dig up, government jobs, and senior citizens. California has to make stuff. Texas makes textbooks full of creationist crap, politicians like Perry, and lots of churches; California teaches actual science and other real stuff. The only decent city in the state is liberal Austin. If you grew up as a bully, it might be the place for you.

      • How about the thuggery of business owners who close shops and move to foreign countries to hire cheaper labor, labor at a cost no one living in the US could afford to live on, and then sell important their products back here to sell to Americans? Or the folk like at ENRON who stole the pension funds of the workers?

        Blackwater, I get it now. You aren’t as ignorant as you sound because no one is that ignorant, you are just trying to agitate by taking a contrary position. Thanks for making it clear how asinine someone would be for moving to Texas where they could work as virtual low paid wage slaves because of right to work and their families could go without health care, vacation time, and other accommodations that the owners of business take for themselves.

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