Monday, December 10, 2012

Right to Work in Michigan: The Scam is On

Well those rascally republicans in Michigan are up to no good. An act is being fast tracked through the legislature that would make the state the latest home to "right to work."

Right to work is a euphemism for what amounts to an institutional effort to eliminate organized labor.

Here is how things work. In most places, including Michigan at the moment, if workers at a factory, or company gather enough signatures they can petition the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB asking to have a union represent them in collective bargaining agreements. Usually there is a union behind this movement and there are a number of reasons the employees sign the petition cards. It normally has to do with wages, working conditions and such. Once a certain percentage of the employees sign onto the idea, the NLRB calls for an election to be held to certify that the union, whichever one it is, will be authorized to represent the workers. As with any American election there is a campaign where the union and its supporters actively lobby for their side. Conversely, the corporation and those who don't want a union do the same. At the end of the campaign there is a vote among all eligible employees. Management is not allowed to participate. If the majority of employees vote to certify the union the business becomes a union shop and everyone, even those who didn't vote for it, become members. This is widely known as majority rule.

In a right to work state, the employees who didn't vote for the union don't have to join, don't have to pay union dues, but do get the exact same benefits and wages as those who do join. In some corners this is known as welfare, although those accepting the wages and benefits negotiated by an entity they refuse to join, or support would probably differ with that opinion.

This is all supposed to promote personal choice, although we as a nation don't accept that when it comes to other elections. If we as a city, or state decide to hike the sales tax through a referendum, everyone has to pay it. We don't let those who opposed it off the hook when they buy their new gun.

The truth is this whole right to work thing is a scam meant to destroy the power and influence of organized labor. It reduces the monies unions have to contribute to political candidates and keeps the employees fractured and in disagreement with each other. It also gives the company immense leverage when bargaining with the union and provides them with a base of employees it knows won't go out on strike if the union members vote to call one.

And that is the key here. There is not a union out there that orders its members to strike without a majority of  them first voting to do so. The portrait of some cigar smoking union boss with a five o:clock shadow ordering unwilling members to walk the picket line is simply Chamber of Commerce propaganda.

In Oklahoma the people voted for right to work a number of years ago. The state Chamber of Commerce spent untold millions on the campaign. Then governor, republican Frank Keating jubilantly told a rally, after the votes were counted, that, "We've sent a message that Oklahoma is now open for business." Not long after that GM shut down its massive plant and Bridgestone-Dayton Tires moved their operation to Mexico, proving that right to work doesn't mean diddly squat when it comes to promoting middle class blue collar jobs, or corporate loyalty to a region.

Of course up in Michigan the GOP controlled legislature is trying to do things differently. The authors of the bill have utilized a procedural rule that prevents the law from being voted on by the public. They maybe assholes, but they aren't stupid. They know that a statewide vote on the issue would probably sink it in a Detroit minute. Besides, the whole concept of right to work is to ignore majority rule in the first place.

Indeed, divide and conquer. Not even Adolph and the boys won a majority before they were able to outlaw free elections. Sometimes you have to take decision making out of the hands of the people and give it to those who know better. Just ask any number of despots world wide.

The corporate minds of this world, in conjunction with their hired hands over at the GOP, really need organized labor and its money to go away. Eliminating a major source of funding for democratic congressional and presidential candidates, not to mention increasing the old profit margin is a dream they've had ever since workers started to unionize. It is the age old concept that for any company to be successful they must be able to relentlessly screw their employees over.

Big business is trying desperately to convince workers that things like a 40 hour work week, overtime pay, insurance benefits, sick leave and paid vacations are written in stone. That they don't need organized labor to enjoy them.

Right. Don't believe it for a minute. Once the unions have gone the way of the Dodo these Scrooges are going to run wild. Just ask your average Wal-Mart employee how much fun it is to work there. There is your template of how it will be everywhere and in every industry.

There is your future with "right to work."


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