FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Indiana Lets It All Slip Away

“The subversive thing about labor is not the strike, but the idea of solidarity.”

—Thomas Geohegan (Which Side Are You On?)

Unless a miracle happens, Indiana (with approximately 11 per cent of its workforce unionized) is going to become the 23rd “right-to-work” state in the U.S. (and the first one to take that dreadful plunge since Oklahoma did it, in 2001), making it illegal to require union membership as a condition of employment.

Traditionally, when a person hired into a “union shop,” he or she was required to join up, and begin paying regular monthly membership dues.  Given that union jobs generally offer 15-20 per cent better wages and benefits (not to mention safer and superior working conditions), and are highly coveted, that requirement was viewed not only as a fair trade-off, but as a privilege.  Indeed, people regularly compete for those union jobs.

Then, despite a flourishing middle-class and an economy chugging along at a record pace—and national union membership rolls hovering at close to 35 per cent—the anti-union forces ( both Republicans and Democrats) mobilized and came up with the bumper-sticker concept of “right-to-work,” allowing employees to work in a union facility without having to join the union.  The states that embraced RTW were mainly in the Deep South and Southwest, which makes Indiana’s decision noteworthy.

But give these anti-union zealots due credit.  Their sappy, albeit close-to-meaningless phrase smacks of the same general good feeling conveyed by that “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” reference in the Declaration of Independence. Right to work.  Right to vote.  Right to choose.  Right to speak your mind.  It’s all good.  Hell, who’s going oppose something as basic the “right to work”?  After all, this is America, isn’t it?

Yet, if these RTW laws were actually examined, we might take a different view.  In fact, our first order of business might be to suggest they be called “right-to-become-hypocritical-unAmerican-blood-sucking-parasite” agreements.

While it’s true that workers who choose not to join the union can’t run for union office, or be appointed to committees, or vote in elections, they’re still allowed to bury their  non-dues-paying snouts in the union trough.  These “free-riders” not only receive full union wages and benefits, they can file grievances when their contractual rights have been violated.  Not too shabby an arrangement.  Sort of like a draft-dodger insisting on being given a Purple Heart.

Naturally, the business and political interests pushing these RTW initiatives make them sound as noble and quasi-altruistic as possible (remember “trickle-down economics”?), even though, in truth, they’re doing nothing more high-minded than trying to hang on to their money.  Apparently, the DNA that triggers a desire for lower taxes, greater profits, and Cayman Island bank accounts is intrinsic to human nature.  Anyone doubting the veracity of this simplistic proposition need only observe the response of Toddler A when Toddler B attempts to take away a valued toy.

And this acquisitive impulse has nothing to do with necessity.  Even with near-record unemployment, the Department of Commerce reported in November, 2010, that U.S. companies just had their best quarter….ever.  According to the DOC, businesses recorded profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion in the third quarter of 2010, which is the highest rate (in non-inflation-adjusted figures) since the government began keeping records more than 60 years ago.  All this while the middle-class continues to be chipped away.

But as selfish as businesses are, and as devious and monomaniacal as the Republican Party is in dedicating itself to crippling organized labor’s political influence (labor was reported to have spent $400 million getting Obama elected in 2008), it’s the workers themselves who cause the most heartburn.

Non-union workers who earn union wages and benefits are not only ignorant, they’re dangerous.   The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  Non-union forklift drivers who earn $40,000 a year in a union shop, but cling to the belief that they’re doing it “on their own,” are not only gaming the system, they’re missing the point.  They don’t realize that without worker collectives and worker solidarity, the whole shebang would quickly devolve into “every man for himself,” which is precisely what corporations dream about when they go to sleep.

Workers with limited skills and only a h.s. education—and without a labor union to back them up—would find themselves in an economic free-fall.  Without outside help, they’d gradually slide all the way down until they hit the federal or state minimum.  Not a desirable outcome.  On the other hand, they would, of course, retain the “right” to work.

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be reached atdmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail