'Right-to-work' aims to destroy labor-union gains

I have two questions. In the next Memorial Day edition of The Day, would you consider running an editorial advocating draft dodging? Or would you, on any day of the year, run an editorial in favor of welfare fraud?

If these questions seem absurd, I would maintain that they are no more absurd than choosing Labor Day, a holiday celebrating the American labor movement, to run an op-ed piece favoring so-called right-to-work laws. (Never was a law more deserving of the "so-called" prefix.)

The right-to-work, union-starving strategy is simple. First we have a union. In the interest of negotiating fair wages, hours, and working conditions, the union provides a service. This service costs money. In right-to-work states, workers who enjoy the benefits of a union are given the option of (1) paying for this service, or (2) freeloading off of the work of the union, and, not incidentally, off of the unpaid work of their fellow employees who serve on the union's bargaining committee. (I served on a few in the 1980s, so I know of which I speak.)

As those on the right are fond of pointing out, "free stuff" is attractive, and free stuff is what the right-to-work laws promise, at least temporarily. But, as time goes on, fewer and fewer workers will elect to throw their financial support behind the union − why pay for what you can get for free? However, free stuff is never actually free, and eventually there is a price − in this case, the financial collapse of the union, and with it, the protections it provides.

The writer claims that in right-to-work states, unemployment figures improve. Could be, although I couldn't help but notice he was silent on the topic of wages. When an employer, now unencumbered by a union, can pay less and fire workers more freely, it is indeed likely that hiring will pick up somewhat. But it also helps explain why pay lagged so far behind the gains in productivity and employment during the recovery from the last recession. It also helps explain why the middle class is fast disappearing.

Bill Morrison lives in East Lyme.

 

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