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“Right-to-Work” In Michigan

[ 48 ] December 10, 2012 |

I’m reluctant to tease Yeselson’s piece on the Michigan loss last week because it’s all excellent, but this general point is a good introduction to the specific claims about the state:

The vaunted libertarian argument in support of right to work would be far more convincing if libertarians supported the rights of employees to reject at their discretion the countless rules and obligations that employers mandate as a condition of employment. The argument seems to be that employees are free either to quit a job or not take it in the first place if they find various company requirements—e.g., what time they are to come to work—onerous or unpleasant. Libertarians do not argue, however, that workers have the right to retain their employment yet arrive at work at noon if their employer wishes them to arrive at 9. Don’t start, or quit, but if you’re on the job, follow the boss’s rules, right?

Yet we are to believe that only the requirement that workers must join a union or else compensate the union for work it will do on his or her behalf constitutes a grave blow to the worker’s economic freedom. Despite the high-minded justifications proffered by some of its defenders, right to work has no distinguished, abstract theoretical pedigree, no elevated standing in the mansion of Western political theory. It’s a snarling pit bull of a policy that disempowers the institutional voice of employees—unions—for the benefit of corporations. Most of the wealthy states don’t have right-to-work laws, and most of the poor ones do. Workers in right to work states make less than those in non-right-to-work states, and their unions have fewer resources to fight the corporations and politicians who benefit from this lopsided system. That’s the idea.

Real the whole etc. See also MacGillis — this is the latest example of why trusting “moderate” Republicans is likely to leave you with nothing but the barrel that will constitute your wardrobe going forward.

Comments (48)

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  1. NonyNony says:

    this is the latest example of why trusting “moderate” Republicans is likely to leave you with nothing but the barrel that will constitute your wardrobe going forward.

    Ever the optimist, Lemieux, ever the optimist.

    • DrDick says:

      There are no moderate Republicans and have not been for at least two decades. The only way they leave you the barrel is if they have packed you in salt in it for export to feed the workers at the Chinese prison factory they sent your job to.

  2. Linnaeus says:

    Yet we are to believe that only the requirement that workers must join a union or else compensate the union for work it will do on his or her behalf constitutes a grave blow to the worker’s economic freedom.

    Furthermore, workers who find their union and union fees onerous can 1) vote to reject contracts that contain union security clause and/or 2) vote to decertify their union.

    • staab89 says:

      I don’t think anyone not paying union dues should have the same rights in the plant as I do when I pay mine. Unfortunately, I can see quite a few people at my plant that would opt out of paying dues. Its crazy, but there are UAW member who complain about their union dues when without the union, we would be working for peanuts. I will gladly pay my $700 a year in dues.

      • Linnaeus says:

        I would – and did – gladly pay my dues. Don’t get me wrong – I think right to work is BS. The point I’m making is that if a union security clause is such a bad thing, workers have mechanisms to address that, which the anti-union types never mention.

    • Fred says:

      This is proof that conservatives support unfunded mandates – since law mandates unions perform work for non-members without compensation.

  3. Semanticleo says:

    I often wonder why working class heroes vote against their own interests.

    Unions got lazy with their membership, and the members either don’t know via ignorance, or they oppose some Union concessions.

    There is an argument sometimes made by union activists that unions should run persuasion campaigns to collect dues because the workers are more invested and supportive of an energized organization than when dues are passively/invisibly collected on a union’s behalf

    There is a lot of history for the ignorant to assimilate.

    In the Collective Bargaining Wars of the 30′s, I think the Mob mentality, augured by the need to have muscle to fight the Pinkerton’s and the corrupt police, overtook the diverse sensibilities of the the membership, and they forgot how hard won, the gains they enjoy, were effected. Single-issue voters undermined the support for Union goals.

    • witless chum says:

      Lots of people vote against their own interests for all kinds of reasons.

    • Barry says:

      “In the Collective Bargaining Wars of the 30′s, I think the Mob mentality, augured by the need to have muscle to fight the Pinkerton’s and the corrupt police, overtook the diverse sensibilities of the the membership, and they forgot how hard won, the gains they enjoy, were effected. Single-issue voters undermined the support for Union goals.”

      I’m not sure what this means, but perhaps a better explanation is that that they simply forgot that what they had was indeed hard-won, and that these gains were always fragile, in the long run.

      • DrDick says:

        The fact that our schools actively avoid teaching real labor history has a lot to do with this. Most Americans have absolutely no idea how much blood was spilled to get the rights (eight hour day & 40 hour week, vacations, holidays, a moderately safe workplace) that we take for granted. Far too many buy into the libertarian garbage that employers voluntarily “gave” those things to workers.

      • Semanticleo says:

        Thank you kind sir.

  4. Joseph Slater says:

    Even more specifically, I never hear libertarians complain about employment-at-will rules that clearly permit employers to require, as a condition of employment, employees to be members of practically any organization under the sun.

    Yet requiring that workers in a workplace where a majority of employees have chosen to be represented by a union to pay that portion of union dues that goes to support activities related to supporting the members of the bargaining unit, now that’s an outrage.

  5. mark f says:

    Well, at least Charles C.W. Cooke of NRO fully embraces the fantasy:

    The smear of right-to-work to one side, actually Mr. President I do have the “right to work for less money.” Why should I be denied that?

    Yes, it’s totally your choice!

  6. MPAVictoria says:

    Even when we win we lose….

  7. UserGoogol says:

    Are there decent opportunities in the not-too-distant future to start pushing Right-to-Work in the other direction? Aside from trying to reverse this in Michigan and Indiana themselves, there are a few somewhat swingy states that have been Right to Work for a while and might be able to to be swung over if and when state government goes in the right direction. (Nevada, Iowa, Florida, or Virginia, perhaps?)

    There’s probably “conditions on the ground” which would make this moderately difficult, but since half the states don’t have Right-to-Work, it’s not like it’s universally viewed as some radical socialistic experiment.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There’s got to be a better phrase that accurately describes a law designed to crush union power. Like “anti-choice” instead of “pro-life”. Right-to-slavery?

  9. wengler says:

    In the spirit of right-to-work-for-less laws, I move to make all taxes voluntary.

  10. Bitter Scribe says:

    My father worked for 20 years on a welding line in a GM plant. I would love to see one of those libertarian right-to-work assholes try to do that job for 15 minutes.

    • Linnaeus says:

      My maternal grandfather (one of several autoworkers in my family) worked as a hammerman in a GM forge plant. Yeah, I’d like to see those guys try that job for 15 minutes, let alone the 30+ years my grandfather did it.

    • staab89 says:

      I am a UAW Local 163 member, I agree, most people that complain about our wages or benefits could never handle working our jobs day after day. Most people have no idea what it is like working on an assembly line. Its is not as physically hard as it used to be thanks to ergonomics and safety laws, but being stuck in the same spot for 8-10 hours a day, doing the same thing over and over again is not “easy”. Even simple things that most people take for granted at there jobs like a restroom break or getting a coffee, takes someone coming over to relieve you off the line. If that relief person is busy, you are waiting. I have worked at GM for 17 years and I like my job, but I really take offense to people who complain that we are overpaid and under skilled when they have no idea what its like.

      • cpinva says:

        you’ll notice most of the people making those complaints have nice, cushy jobs, writing columns for newspapers.

        I have worked at GM for 17 years and I like my job, but I really take offense to people who complain that we are overpaid and under skilled when they have no idea what its like.

        and they make a lot more than the average union member does. oddly, that never seems to get mentioned, by those pushing “right to work” laws.

    • DrDick says:

      My great grandfather was a union machinist and my grandfather helped found the St. Louis furriers union. Both men clearly showed the wear and tear of their jobs. All the joints of my grandfather’s fingers were swollen and arthritic.

      • Linnaeus says:

        My grandfather whom I mentioned above suffered significant hearing loss due to the nature of his job. So he needed to get a hearing aid after he retired – covered, of course, by the health insurance that his union negotiated.

    • Barry says:

      “My father worked for 20 years on a welding line in a GM plant. I would love to see one of those libertarian right-to-work assholes try to do that job for 15 minutes.”

      They don’t have to.

      Although it’d be almost as fun as dropping off neocons naked in Baghdad, and seeing just how long they last.

  11. dan says:

    There does seem to be a connection between Republican attitudes towards this, health care, and the environment (besides the obvious), and that is this:

    Republicans like free riders.

    And a “free market” ideology has nothing to do with it.

  12. chris m says:

    “Right to work” is just one more instance of libertarians apparent believe in a natural right to free ridership.

  13. cpinva says:

    the whole purpose of “right to work” laws is to bring back, as much as possible, slave labor conditions. these laws originated in the former confederate states, specifically to keep workers (mostly african american) as close to the conditions of their former slave ancestors as possible.

    they weren’t about to let a bunch of “outside agitators” give their “darkies” any ideas. the whole judicial/penal system in the south is constructed with that purpose in mind as well, just slavery by another name.

  14. Paul says:

    First – A sad for me I’ve always been proud to say no I’m from Michigan I guess as a liberal I just say no I’m from Washington now…

    Second – Hey is this a not a good test of the hard left/extreme progressive ideal that I should not vote for Obama because he only manages incremental and fiesable national health care and not the say the French system with a smattering of progressive pixy dust and alien space bats for help? I mean now people in Michigan know what can happen surely a vast army of motivated progressives will appear and turn Michigan into a left leaning paradise – right?

  15. Cody says:

    I’ve always been a bit puzzled by this.

    Are employers required to give non-Union members the same contract as Union members?

    I don’t see why. Although I suppose if this wasn’t the case, employers might reward you for not being the member of a Union. However, I would hope the negotiation powers of the Union would be able to navigate this.

    • Joseph Slater says:

      Union-Employer contracts must cover all members of a union bargaining unit, whether or not any particular member is or isn’t paying dues, or is or is not a member of the union.

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