Skip to main content

Crossposted from "It's About Power Stupid!"

The signing of "right to work for less" in Michigan is another stark reminder to us all how deep the crisis of labor is. As if we needed another. The fact that the supporters of "right to work" could garner enough votes to pass such a bill in Michigan underscores the determination of our enemies and the extent to which the decline of labor density has weakened labor's ability to fend off attacks, even in our strongholds.

Right to work will not kill the labor movement in Michigan. If enacted, it will however weaken it substantially. This makes keeping up pressure in the streets, courts and all other points possible to defeat its implementation is essential. There is also still time to mitigate and undo the damage done through a variety of legal and legislative strategies. While the fight is far from ending in Michigan, we must look soberly at our priorities as a movement.

Going forward with the effort to beat back and repeal "right to work" is both necessary and makes sense. The same can be said for the other states who have recently passed or partially passed attacks on the labor movement. In many cases these states will see many of the Republicans who snuck into office in 2010 under false pretenses kicked to the curb in 2014. The energy created by the movements against the attacks on labor and working people represents a movement that has awoken from it's slumber and this new energy will lead to our taking the offensive both politically and in organizing if our leaderships take advantage of it.

That being said, the rest of the states that have been living under "right to work" will continue to do so until we reverse our decline and begin to grow qualitatively. In those states growth and infrastructure building must take priority over possible efforts to repeal Right to work or enacting "fair share" legislation. This is not to say that we should not take advantage of any opportunity to do either should it present itself (a remote possibility), but prioritizing it over growing our movement, activating our members, and strengthening our organization would be a mistake at this moment. On the other hand, so not to be confused with the more syndicalist abstentionists out there, to what ever extent possible we have to for survival's sake continue to resist legislative attacks against labor wherever they are.

I live in a right to work state. Anyone who says right to work is an acceptable condition to work under has never lived the experience, at least in terms of trying to build and grow organization.

Every day some portion is spent contemplating how to maintain membership levels in my union. We represent several large groups of low-wage members both newly organized and as components of larger groups of better paid members. These groups of members have an extremely high turnover rate, so engaging with them immediately upon being hired is always a priority. The right to meet and do a union presentation is always a priority of every contract that we negotiate. Freeloaders are subjected to varying degrees of 100% legal social pressure from their coworkers of varying degrees depending on the level of union organization at that worksite. This additional burden of maintaining our membership is a constant financial drain on our union valuable hours of staff time are consumed daily by this area of activity.

Where turnover is lower the level of membership is always higher. Our local union's worksites as well as other unions that are more stable provide the core of our states union membership. Not coincidentally these industries usually represent those area of the private sector where unions used to hold sway nationally. It also reflects the fact that members in these types of bargaining units have a greater understanding of how their membership levels reflect their relative strength to their employer and how that correlates with contract gains.

All this being said unions have survived for decades in right to work states and will continue to do so insofar as we continue to survive precariously on a national level. A strategy for growth and strategic development of capacity in right to work states must be at the center of any discussion of labor revitalization. Ideally this would include creating special funds that pool resources from the union locals at the "bookends" of our country where we are strongest to be channeled into strengthening our structures in the south or creating structures where none exist.

Labor must make an investment in the south and right to work states. It is no coincidence that our greatest enemies are voted into positions of power in from the south and RTW states..

In states where the "war on workers" has been waged the most we must do everything we can to roll back these attacks. At the same time as we fighting to protect our flanks in this war we must work to internalize the mistakes we have made that got us here in the first place. The constant attempts to blame the contemporary leaders of unions where mistakes have been made for decades for this situation serves no one. It is up to all of us now to do the hard work of rebuilding and the best way to do that is a robust and sober discussion at all levels of our movement that dispenses with preconceived notions and opens up to winning strategies. It behooves our leaders to listen.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site