Elite Politics

Dear Editor,

It is troubling to see that elitist politicians in Michigan passed a “Right to Work” law, without input from citizens or even a debate.

“Right to Work” laws were made possible by the fascist Taft- Hartley Act, which was passed in 1947 by the first Republican controlled Congress since 1932. Taft- Hartley allowed states to pass so called “Right to Work” laws. “Right to Work” laws undermine the ability of workers to build effective unions by creating a free loader problem. They basically state that a worker does not need to join the union or pay any sort of fee; however, the union must represent that worker at the dues paying members of the union’s expense. The actual point of a “Right to Work” law, then, is to drain the union of resources and at the same time break the solidarity of workers.

The phrasings of “Right to Work” laws suggest that they are about freedom of choice. But, they are not; they are about weakening the ability of workers to unite effectively.

Think about it like this: states pass laws that mandate that, in order to own and drive a car, you must have auto insurance. If you want to rent a car without your own insurance, you must purchase it from the rental company. If you refuse to purchase it, you are liable for the car. As a driver, you can’t say that if you have an accident and have chosen not to purchase insurance, that it’s up to those who have purchased insurance or anyone else to cover your costs. You are liable. As anyone who has had an accident with an uninsured driver knows, there may be no way to collect anything from them. They may be so broke that the entire weight of the accident falls on the victim rather than the person responsible. A worker who refuses to contribute to the cost of union representation, is the same as an uninsured driver, he is taking a chance not only with his own safety but also with that of his coworkers.

In a “Right to Work” state an individual worker may decide not to pay union dues or join the union where they work. They may make the argument that they will not get into trouble at work, so why should they have to pay union dues? But, what happens if for some reason, they are treated unfairly and want to contest this treatment? Who should have to pay for their right to fairness under the union contract?

Taft- Hartley outlawed the closed shop, which required that workers join the union before being eligible for employment with the unionized employer.

Taft- Hartley permitted employers to petition for a union certification election, thus undermining the ability of workers to control the timing of an election. Employers benefit when elections are held before workers are ready.

Taft-Hartley defined “employee” as excluding supervisors and independent contractors. This decreased the number of workers eligible to join the union, and has become a serious problem as courts and the National Labor Relations Board have allowed ever-expanding employer definitions of who a supervisor is.

Taft-Hartley required that the employer be able to demand hearings on key matters of dispute, before a union election, thus delaying the election. Delay benefits management, giving the employer time to intimidate workers.

Taft-Hartley established the “Right” of the employer to campaign against a union organizing drive, destroying the principle of employer neutrality.

Taft-Hartley prohibited secondary boycotts. Secondary boycotts were directed to encourage neutral employers to put pressure on employers with which the union has a dispute. Before 1947, secondary boycotts were one of organized labor’s most effective tools, for organizing, negotiating and settlement of disputes.

Taft-Hartley sends a message to employers that it is ok to bust unions and deny workers their Constitutional Right to freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively.

The repeal of Taft-Hartley is long overdue. This would be the most important step in restoring workers right to organize into unions, achieve a living wage, and in revitalizing American Democracy.

My question is; will any progressive in Washington, who we worked very hard to elect, introduce this long overdue repeal legislation?


Ben Lofton