Monday, January 16, 2012

Stop Calling It "Right to Work."

Proud Indiana union teacher here, enjoying a day off to celebrate the Man and his Mission. I am not acting in any kind of official capacity, however, with this post.

Last year, Indiana union teachers were specifically targeted by Governor Mitch "Big Jerk" Daniels in yet another effort to kneecap public employee unions, and public education in general. This unfortunately successful effort was aimed at taking the teachers out of teaching and education policy, and furthering Governor Big Jerk's "I hate public employee" credentials for a future Presidential run, possibly 2016.

Luckily, last year's attempt to push the so-called "Right to Work" legislation failed. But fear not, teacher-hating RepubliCons. Because this year, the horribly-named "Right to Work" legislation is back . . . and it's very likely to pass.

This brings me to my main thrust of this post. Nomenclature matters. Framing matters, and we really . . . . REALLY . . . need to stop calling this kind of union-busting legislation and/or law "Right to Work." This name implies that somehow, when no such law is in place, workers are going to be denied the ability to maintain or hold a job because big, mean, unions are barring the front door to the plant, or warehouse, or school, or whatever. It's as if the caricatured "union thugs" or the "Mittster's union stooges" are somehow preventing ANYONE from having a job. That's just not the case.

Let's review.

Current law in states that DON'T have what I call "Free Rider" laws - a.k.a "Right to Work - allows unions to collect dues from non-members, because under Federal law, all workers are covered by a union-negotiated contract, whether they are union members or not.

The point here is that if you want the benefits of membership - like higher wages, better benefits, more say in your work conditions and hours, due process in disciplinary and dismissal procedures, etc. - you're SHOULD to have to pay for them, because they come at a cost. If you're going to get the benefits of a union-negotiated contract, you will also have to pay the costs of it. That's how it is in Indiana right now . . . for now.

Proponents of "Free Rider" legislation say that workers should be able to get all the benefits of a union contract, and SHOULDN'T have to pay for it, if they choose not.
Think about it under "Free Rider" laws - there is basically NO ECONOMIC DOWNSIDE to refusing to join the union. Sure your coworkers may look at you a little funny, but basically, you get the benefits without a single dollar taken from your paycheck.

Is it any wonder unions are opposed to free rider laws?

The so-called "Right to Work" meme has been pretty darn powerful, and it makes sense. If people don't know the facts, or don't follow labor issues closely - I mean who WOULDN'T support a generic, un-nuanced "Right to Work?" Most of us would probably agree that everyone OUGHT to have the "right to work" in a generic, non-union busting sense.

It's not just RepubliCons and the entire mainstream media referring to these union-busting laws as "Right to Work." The Wrong Wing has so totally dominated the framing of this argument, that many progressive websites routinely refer to anti-union or "Free Rider" laws as "Right to Work."

We need to do better at policing ourselves and rejecting this ridiculous wrong-wing framing.

Everyone has a "right to work" as long as they are old enough and meet a few other requirements, depending on the situation. What everyone DOESN'T have is a right to union representation, for free.

I'm calling it "Free Rider" legislation. You can call it what you want.

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