Kitchen Table Economics: What is "Right to Work?"

The right to join a union and to negotiate for a living wage and decent working conditions should be available to all workers. Republican politicians are trying to take this basic right away in several states by proposing legislation misleadingly named “right to work.”

Right to work (RTW) laws do not guarantee anyone a job; that is, there is no actual right to work. Rather, RTW laws make it illegal for unions to require that each worker who benefits from a union contract pay his or her fair share of the costs of administering that contract.

“Right to work” is a propaganda slogan that the corporate- owned media has successfully branded and repeated. We should avoid echoing the phrase. Instead, we should call these laws what they are – an assault on unions. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in states that have adopted RTW legislation, annual wages and benefits are about $1,500 lower than for comparable workers in non-RTW states, for both union and nonunion workers. And the odds of getting health insurance or a pension through one’s job are also lower.

The way to economic recovery isn’t to lay off workers, slash their salaries and benefits, and threaten the retirement plans of people who have been paying into them for over 30 years. But that is what politicians in Wisconsin, Indiana, New Hampshire and other states are doing as they pass RTW legislation. And by making it harder for workers’ organizations to have staff and to sustain themselves financially, RTW laws undermine unions’ bargaining strength and workers’ participation in politics.

Twenty-two states – predominantly in the South – already have RTW laws, mostly dating from the Joe McCarthy era. Since the Republican sweep of state legislatures in 2010,

a coalition of corporate lobbyists, right-wing anti-worker politicians and extremists including Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers have sponsored RTW legislation and similar attacks on unions in dozens of states. When they can’t win completely they often introduce other “paycheck deception bills” to limit unions’ participation in elections and politics.

By Duane E. Campbell

The great US “middle class” (read: affluent working class) did not just happen. It was built by the hard work of our parents and grandparents and the unions that represented them. Union power created the 40-hour work week, paid vacations, and wages that were once the envy of the world. But today workers and unions are under siege. In several states working people today are fighting the greatest class war in over 100 years. And we can expect little help from a political system that has aided the looting of the country. As democratic socialists we should lend our support to unions and working people in general in defeating these anti-worker RTW proposals.

Duane Campbell is a professor (emeritus) of bilingual multicultural education at California State University Sacramento, a union activist for over 40 years, and the chair of Sacramento DSA. His most recent book is Choosing Democracy: a Practical Guide to Multicultural Education (2010). He blogs on politics, education and labor at www.choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com and www. talkingunion.wordpress.com. t 

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
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The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
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Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
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Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
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Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
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Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.