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

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey- The Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail