One of the biggest threats to America’s working families is the proliferation of so-called right-to-work (RTW) laws across the country.
For starters, let the record show that these anti-worker, un-democratic statutes are deceptively named. They, in fact, having nothing to do with workers’ rights. Instead, they have everything to do with weakening employees’ voices while giving more and more power to the boss.
A right-to-work (or “Free Rider”) law is a measure that stops employers and employees from negotiating an agreement that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs associated with representation. Right-to-work laws say that unions must represent every eligible employee, no matter if he or she pays dues or not. In other words, right-to-work laws allow workers to pay nothing and still enjoy the benefits of union membership.
As one pro-worker journalist put it, “The practical impact of RTW is to make every worker a free rider, able to use the union’s services without paying for them – and to smash unions by financially crippling them so much that they can’t defend workers in the first place.”
Earlier this year, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, “Right to work is a lie dressed up in a feel-good slogan. It doesn’t give workers freedom – instead, it weakens our right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Its end goal is to destroy unions. Numbers don’t lie. Workers in states with right-to-work laws have wages that are 12 percent lower. That’s because unions raise wages for all workers, not just our members.”
Trumka also pointed to a recent Pew survey showing that 60 percent of Americans support unions.
“Americans clearly see the value of coming together with their co-workers to tackle inequality,” he observed. “Right to work isn’t the will of the people; it’s legislation pushed on working people by out-of-touch corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, cut health and safety protections, and pay lower wages. This is an attempt by corporate CEOs to further tip the scale even more in their favor, at working people’s expense.”
By many measures, quality of life is worse in states with right-to-work laws. In addition to wages being lower, people are less likely to have health insurance and the necessary resources for a quality education. In addition, poverty levels and workplace fatality rates are higher.
Moreover, we note with pride that leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – who saw an alliance with labor as crucial to advancing civil rights as well as economic justice for all workers – spoke out against right-to-work laws more than five decades ago.
In a 1961 statement, the civil rights titan said, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right-to-work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.”
The MTD applauds the late civil rights icon and others like him who possessed the wisdom to navigate past the deception created by these laws and saw them for what they are: all-out attempts to undermine unions and deny working families the opportunity to fully live the American dream.
As union members and officials, we believe that workers everywhere should be free to decide whether to join a union. But we also believe in that most-American edict of majority rule. Therefore, once a majority of employees votes for union representation, they should all share in both the benefits and the responsibilities that go with it.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils will continue fighting to turn back these so-called “right-to-work” laws and expose them for what they really are; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, although right-to-work backers claim that these laws protect workers against being forced to join a union, the reality is that federal law already makes it illegal to force someone to join a union; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the MTD joins with our brothers and sisters throughout the Labor Movement in recognizing our responsibility to defeat these and other laws that make it harder for working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
Passed 2017 MTD Convention