About half of the nation’s states are now enforcing corporate servitude measures like the “right-to-work” bill that Michigan’s lame-duck legislature and conservative governor just rushed into law.
These misleadingly named laws make it harder, if not impossible, to run labor unions — and it’s no coincidence that pay is $1,500 lower on average in “right-to-work” states. Labor heroes Walter Reuther and Cesar Chavez must be rolling over in their graves.
With Michigan becoming the latest state to use the force of law to crush the right to organize and maintain a union, the Rust Belt is turning into the Union-Bust Belt. If the Koch Brothers and other powerful and wealthy people can break the UAW and teachers unions in Michigan, they can do it anywhere.
Soon there will be no more good-paying jobs, and no more unions. Because these “right to work” laws really just grant the right to shirk. They let employers shed any responsibility to treat workers decently and strip unionized employees of any obligation to act in solidarity to guarantee the wellbeing of their co-workers. Once in force, these statutes allow union members to reap the benefits that their union wins in negotiations without paying dues. Without shared sacrifice, unions are crippled.
We’re witnessing the gospel of Ayn Rand destroying a gospel of solidarity. We’ve got every man and woman for themselves, while the bosses divide and conquer. I’ve got mine and good luck getting yours. Selfishness has edged out shared destiny.
But whether workers attend to patients in an emergency room, shovel earth in a mine, hoe sugar beets, or work an assembly line — they learn something from these tasks. Having done the first and third of these, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Most working people learn quickly what’s fair and what’s not, if management sits down and levels with them.
This is the purpose of sensible union activity: To achieve the goals of the company or organization with every stakeholder at the table. As Michigan’s workers struggle to reverse this new law created by shedding any semblance of democratic process, we must renew our solidarity. Our common good binds us all — rich and poor and middle class — together.