Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Feb. 26, 27 or 28
But in the name of making Illinois – and now, some of its individual communities – “more competitive,” RTW is being advanced as a way to help employers be flexible and get busy, a solution to economic “needs.”
However, there are needs and needs. The U.S. Declaration of Independence talks about the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and maybe we need those. Human NEEDS include hunger, thirst, sleep and sex, according to the classic hierarchy of physiological needs.
And how does RTW address them? It doesn’t, of course.
Workers represented by unions already aren’t required to be “members” of their union, which is legally bound to represent all workers in the bargaining unit. Workers can choose to instead pay smaller “fair-share” fees (which cover costs except political contributions) and retain the wages and benefits negotiated for them,. All they lose by deciding to be non-members is the right to vote on tentative agreements, officers, etc.
When unions lose the right to collect fees covering the expenses they incur, employers can convince people they can get something for nothing, and that means a less stable union and a less powerful voice for workers. The consequences range from a return to company control to lousy economic circumstances.
Places with RTW have lower wages and standards of living, according to the Congressional Research Service, which reports from that RTW states show lower wages compared to state permitting union-security provisions: $43,641 compared to $50,867 where workers share the costs – 16.6 percent lower compensation.
“States with the lowest percentage of union members are the 11 states of the Deep South,” writes University of Illinois labor studies professor Roger Bybee. “The initial Right To Work campaign arose in the former slave states. RTW laws also translate into a new political order: uncontested corporate power and distorted public policy. RTW states generally have lower levels of educational attainment, public health and other indicators of social health, like an infant-mortality rate 15 percent higher than the national average.”
In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner, parroting Big Business leaders and its GOP followers, is pushing for RTW “zones” where municipalities can choose to prohibit parts of contracts that require workers benefiting from unions that negotiate for them to share in labor’s expenses.
Since just 24 states have RTW restrictions and only Oklahoma, Michigan and Indiana have banned the cost-sharing practice in the last 20 years, it’s certainly no trend. However, it remains a Republican goal, and lawmakers in Missouri, Wisconsin, Maine and New Mexico are pushing the change.
Again, why stop with Right To Work? Remember real NEEDS.
Why not Right To Eat? That could enable people to dine where they wish and withhold payment for their food and drink. That sure would make restaurants “flexible,” right?
How about the Right To Sleep? Whether working on the job or seeking shelter, that would let employees doze at their desk or at the wheel of heavy machinery, and, for residents, make rent, mortgage payments, or even hotel room rates voluntary. Think of the enthusiasm in moving into a vacant home, an empty storefront or a fancy hotel!
What about pursuing happiness without paying taxes for roads you drive on, schools you kids attend, or troops who protect our lives? And Americans’ liberty is supposedly ensured by the Right To Vote, but it’s too often choosing the lesser of two evils (maybe why the 2014 election turnout of 36.4 percent was the lowest it’s been since World War II). Don’t we need a REAL Right To Vote, like no civic obligation to cast a ballot unless there’s someone worth supporting? A Right To Vote should include “None of the Above.”
And as for the human need for sex, Rauner’s assault on everyday working people shouldn’t count.
[PICTURED: Satirical graphic of "free rider" card in some Right To Work (for less) area.]