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 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 57 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 95 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

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

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.