FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Right-to-Exploit

by ROBERT HANHAM

No sooner had Michigan’s ‘right-to-work’ (RTW) law passed, than supporters were out in force crowing about their success and the prospect of other states falling victim.

Non-RTW states Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin were all mentioned as potential candidates to fall. Most frequently referred to were Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Twenty-four states are currently RTW, most recently Indiana and Michigan in 2012.

The rationale behind RTW is simple. It allows capital to boost its profit-making (labor exploitation) by using state coercion. In other words, RTW increases capital’s share of produced surplus at the expense of labor. It has nothing to do with the right to work.

RTW achieves this by undermining the power of unions, thereby reducing wages (an average $1500 annually according to the Economic Policy Institute), shifting the burden of paying for benefits and pensions onto workers, creating less healthy work environments and so on.

I decided to research how capital and labor have fared in RTW and non-RTW states in the current economic downturn. Using the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, I calculated labor’s share of each state’s private sector GDP, a rough measure of its share of the surplus. I then calculated the average labor share for RTW states and the average for non-RTW states.

In 2011, labor’s share averaged 47.5% in RTW states and 50.6% in non-RTW states, a difference of 3.1%. RTW clearly does what it is designed to accomplish, namely increase profit-making and enhance the exploitation of labor.

It is not difficult to see why supporters thought of the states listed above as future candidates for RTW. Twenty-three of the twenty-eight states without RTW in 2011 had labor shares that are higher than the average for all of the RTW states (47.5%), making them particularly ripe for RTW exploitation.

What’s more, the states most often mentioned by supporters as candidates for RTW had some of the highest labor shares, specifically Pennsylvania (55%), Ohio (54%) and Missouri (54%). Pre-RTW Michigan also had one of the largest labor shares (54%).

How much does capital gain financially from RTW?  Since the average gap in labor’s share between RTW states and non-RTW states is 3.1% of state GDP, I assumed that current RTW states would have a 3.1% larger labor share than they do now if they were not RTW.

Summing 3.1% of each RTW state’s GDP provides a measure of the value to capital of enforcing RTW on all those states. The result for 2011, when there were twenty-two RTW states, is $150.9 billion. That’s a huge number, and it’s only for one year.

And how much would capital gain financially from forcing RTW on current non-RTW states? Using the same reasoning as above, but in reverse, the value to capital of converting all twenty-eight states that were not RTW in 2011 to RTW is $253.0 billion. Again, it’s a huge number, and only for one year.

Obviously, it is unrealistic to think this will happen, but it does give a good idea of how much is at stake. More concretely, the value to capital of forcing RTW on Indiana and Michigan in 2012 would alone have been about $18.3 billion in the first year.

The financial gain to capital of RTW is enormous, and that’s the whole point of it. RTW is an instrument of class war. It is misnamed and should be called the right-to-exploit.

ROBERT HANHAM is a retired academic geographer.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 23, 2017
Dave Brotherton
Trump, Moral Panics and Resistance
Jonathan Cook
One State: Trump Has Reminded Palestinians What It Was Always About
Bill Quigley
Ten Examples of Direct Resistance to Stop Government Raids
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigot Boy Business: Trump Exposes His Ignorance and Intolerance, Again
John W. Whitehead
The Illusion of Freedom: the Police State Is Alive and Well
Ralph Nader
Restricting People’s Use of Their Courts
David Macaray
Women As Labor Union Organizers
Kathy Kelly
Friendship in Defiance of War
Doug Weir
Why Did the US Use Depleted Uranium Weapons in Syria?
Steve Horn
Former GOP Congressional Staffer Follows Revolving Door, Now Latest Keystone XL Lobbyist
Binoy Kampmark
From Rights to Repentance: Norma McCorvey and Roe v Wade
Thomas Knapp
The Target of the “Border Adjustment Tax” is You
Chris Zinda
Open Letter to Neoliberal Environmentalists
February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail