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 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 55 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 52 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.