As the economy continues to wobble, the American divide on labor rights is playing out in some unexpected locales. Indiana is in the spotlight now, as it prepares to adopt a law that unions say will weaken their ranks.
The state of Indiana, Senate voted 28-22 to pass the labor union bill as thousands of protesters packed Statehouse hallways, shouting their disapproval. Thousands more were outside waiting to get in.
Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill shortly thereafter without ceremony, making Indiana the 23rd state in the nation with such a law. Indiana also is the first state in the “Rust Belt” of the Midwest and Northeast to adopt the measure. The “right-to-work” law would allow workers to skip paying union dues but still receive the benefits of union-negotiated contracts. Advocates say such employees have been forced into unions, but organized labor calls them “free riders.”
Like the minimum wage, right-to-work battles have flared repeatedly for more than a half-century after workers toiling in onerous circumstances — not unlike what some in Asian factories face today — won the right to unite and bargain for wages and workplace conditions. But the nation never completely embraced a uniform view of worker rights.
In a peculiarly American way of adopting names that can be contrary to what they can mean, proponents called their effort “right to work.” At first glance, this “seems to be a declaration that there is a right to have a job,” notes Dan Graff, a professor with the Higgins Labor Studies Program at the University of Notre Dame, who has studied the impact of such a law in Indiana.
“This country has a different definition of this phrase than everyone else in the world,” he says. “The phrase is deliberately meant to confuse. A Texas newspaper columnist started calling it that decades ago, and it was picked up to mean working without having to be a member of a union.”
Almost half of all states already have such laws, with a concentration in in the Sun Belt, a region that has a less than friendly history with unions. It’s been more than a decade since the last state adopted such a law (Oklahoma, in 2001), but the unexpected success of curbing collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin has fueled voices to give corporations a free, or, at least freer, hand in the workplace.
A leaked memo reveals Wisconsin Democrats’ and Big Labor’s battle plan for the June 5 recall election. Their campaign strategy: Don’t talk about Wisconsin’s government-sector Right to Work law.
One Democrat even admitted that the issue “isn’t moving people” to their side.
There’s a simple reason for that.
Right to Work is popular with the people of Wisconsin – and Governor Walker’s reforms are paying off.
And now the union bosses are desperate to talk about anything else. But your National Right to Work Committee won’t let them get away with sweeping the issue under the rug.
Over a year ago, your support helped encourage Governor Walker and the legislature to stay the course and pass the bill over the outrageous protests, teacher union “sick outs,” and a Democrat legislative walkout.
Your Committee alerted and mobilized Wisconsin citizens when Big Labor tried to hijack an election for the State Supreme Court, and later when they tried to restore a pro-forced unionism majority in the State Senate.
Despite a $20 million campaign to recall supporters of the government-sector Right to Work law last summer, Big Labor-backed challengers in the recall election were terrified to even mention the forced-dues issue.
We blitzed those districts with three separate mailings totaling almost 200,000 pieces of mail, making sure constituents knew where each candidate stood on forced dues, and asking them to call the pro-forced unionism politicians and demand they change their ways – and we followed that with emails and phone calls.
The people of Wisconsin took care of the rest. In the end, only two of the six Republicans lost – but neither lost because of their support for Governor Walker’s reform bill.
One Republican who lost had been dogged by a tawdry infidelity scandal, yet his union-label opponent only scraped by with 51 percent of the vote – hardly a rebuke of employee freedom.
Another union hierarchy-backed candidate won in District 32, where Barack Obama overwhelmingly won in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote.
Without the generosity and commitment of Right to Work supporters in these battles, the union bosses and their allies may have succeeded in their schemes to take over the Wisconsin Supreme Court and retake the State Senate with forced-unionism proponents.
And now that the union bosses and their allies are gearing up to spend even more in their desperate attempt to recall Scott Walker, those of us who support worker freedom must fight back.
Tens of thousands of Right to Work supporters nationwide have signed Letters of Encouragement for Governor Walker, but that’s only one step.
We’ve got to be ready to once again bring worker freedom front and center in the campaign.
You see, Big Labor and their puppet politicians don’t want Wisconsin voters to think about Right to Work or how the reforms are already paying off:
- The Kaukauna School Board relied on the reforms to turn a $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus, hire more teachers, and reduce class sizes without the burdensome meddling of teacher union bosses;
- School districts across the state are projected to save millions of dollars each year by shopping around for competitively priced health insurance providers;
- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, one of the Democrats vying for the chance to oppose Governor Walker in the June 5 recall, publicly admitted that his city would save “at least $25 million a year — and potentially as much as $36 million in 2012.”
Instead, the union bosses want to hoodwink the voters and pretend the election isn’t about restoring Big Labor’s dominance in Madison.
It’s vital we do everything we can to prevent a union-boss takeover in Wisconsin because this election could send shock waves from coast to coast.
You see, even though the Democrats and union bosses aren’t talking about the labor law reforms now, if they end up taking out Governor Walker in the recall election, they’ll turn around and scream at the top of their lungs that the election really was about Right to Work.
They want to frighten elected officials and grassroots activists and stop the growing Right to Work movement in its tracks.
Whether you are for the new laws about the Right to Work or not. You have to admit that this country that should mean FREEDOM, we the people, should not have to join anything to be able to work. Should not have to pay dues to some big wig at the top.
Everyone should be on a level field, get paid for their work, their worth and get fired if they are not working up to standards of the company with work for.
Yes years ago we needed the unions to stop slave and children labor. Those times are gone and in my humble opinion Unions are past their time of usefulness.