Rand Paul would have you "sign the Right to Work petition that Obama fears". But before you "click here" to sign it, read this!Submitted by Amerianne on Wed, 06/06/2012 - 19:17
Like the minimum wage, right-to-work battles have flared repeatedly for more than a half-century after workers toiling in onerous circumstances -- not unlike what some in Asian factories face today -- won the right to unite and bargain for wages and workplace conditions. But the nation never completely embraced a uniform view of worker rights.
In a peculiarly American way of adopting names that can be contrary to what they can mean, proponents called their effort "right to work." At first glance, this seems to be a declaration that there is a right to have a job.
This country has a different definition of this phrase than everyone else in the world. The phrase is deliberately meant to confuse. A Texas newspaper columnist started calling it that decades ago, and it was picked up to mean working without having to be a member of a union.
Almost half of all states already have such laws, with a concentration in in the Sun Belt, a region that has a less than friendly history with unions. It's been more than a decade since the last state adopted such a law (Oklahama, in 2001), but the unexpected success of curbing collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin has fueled voices to give corporations a freer hand in the workplace, which ultimately will only deliver low-wage and low-skill jobs.
Update: Let's be clear about what is going on here.
When a legislature interferes with voluntary employment contracts, it infringes people’s freedom to bargain with their own labor and possessions. Treating this kind of interference as acceptable means licensing arbitrary interventions into the market by politicians, who are ill-equipped to second-guess the decisions made by the real people making work agreements with one another.
And there’s no principled way to draw a sharp line here: Once it’s okay for a legislature to interfere with bargaining in this way, there’s no stopping politicians from setting wages and prices, or requiring or prohibiting the hiring of particular people.
Supporting a free society means embracing people’s freedom to form unions. And it means acknowledging that unions—and union-shop agreements—can offer both workers and employers something valuable.
Too few Americans know labor history and how they have benefited from the efforts of unions. We have a 40-hour work week, defined benefits, higher wages, paid vacations and sick leave, largely as the result of union activity in the 20th century. We built a middle-class society in the period after World War II, also a period when the work force was, compared with today, heavily unionized. But workers toiling in the circumstances that were prevalent before the implementation of unions had no choices. If we willingly revert to the onerous workplace conditions of the past through "right to work" legislation, all workers will lose the ground that has been gained since then.
Since the implementation of Citizens United, largely backed by the Koch brothers, corporations have gained personhood and the ability to vote on new legislation for their own benefit and on their own behalf, through ALEC and other means. If unions can be broken in the public sector, as the "right to work" law actually promotes, this will further tilt the political playing field on behalf of corporate interests and their [Neocon] Republican allies, like the Koch brothers. This will also silence one of the few remaining vehicles that advocate on behalf of ordinary people in this country.
I don't live in a right to work state, although I do know of employers in my state who have mandatory union membership. I can simply choose not to work for them. And I don't need new legislation in my state to be able to make that choice.