Thursday, March 26, 2015

[NJFAC] Chomsky on right to work; "Right to Work" and its inventor's racist past

Noam Chomsky blasts the assault on labor: "'Right to work' means 'right to scrounge'"  Leftist intellectual laments America's lack of a robust labor movement Luke Brinker

The United States, Chomsky told Nichols, is "a business-run society," tainted by a "very violent and repressive labor history."

That legacy reverberates today, as governors of onetime bulwarks of labor power like Wisconsin and Michigan sign "right-to-work" laws allowing workers to opt out of paying fees to support unions that bargain on their behalf. While such measures are framed in terms of workers' rights, Chomsky argued that they effectively sanction freeloading.

"'Right to work' means right to scrounge, " he said. "It has nothing to do with 'right to work.' It means the right to be represented by a union to defend you and not to pay for it."

As "Right To Work" becomes law in Wisconsin, a reminder of its inventor's racist past

By   On March 13, 2015

On Monday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed into law the controversial anti-union "Right To Work" bill, following weeks of protests in Madison. Right To Work laws are designed to kill unions by mandating "open shop" workplaces, allowing workers to work in unionized workplaces, without paying union dues.

Wisconsin is historically one of the most pro-union, progressive states, home to the legendary "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, and the only community-owned nonprofit NFL football team— so gutting unions in labor's historical heartland is like what Russian homicide detectives call a "control shot" — the point-blank bullet to the head that makes sure the bleeding target on the ground never breathes again.

It's also gratuitous, like doing donuts on road kill, when you consider how close to extinction labor unions have fallen over the years. Only 6.6% of private sector workers are in unions today, down from a peak of 35% in the mid-1950s. It's only thanks to public sector unions—which Scott Walker destroyed in Wisconsin in 2011—that the overall percentage of the workforce that's unionized is 11.1%. California, which has rejected "Right To Work" laws in the past, has the largest number of union members in the country —  2.5 million workers — though as a percentage, California ranks sixth highest.

....Walker's RTW law reminds me of is some unfinished business I have with the number one national organization behind the law: The National Right To Work Committee.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for NSFWCORP (since acquired by Pando) exposing the ugly, racist roots of the whole "Right To Work" movement, tracing it back to the brains behind "Right To Work": Vance Muse, the loonie anti-Semitic, anti-black Texan who coined "Right To Work" in the early 1940s, and worked Karl Rove-like to push through the first "Right To Work" laws in the South in the 40s and early 50s. Since a lot of people these days are not in tune with labor union struggles and what "right to work" laws even mean, my article exposing the KKK racist who started "Right To Work" created a bit of a PR headache for the union-busting movement.

In the weeks and months that followed the publication of my article, people I know started forwarding me emails from a certain Stan Greer of the Washington, DC-based "National Right To Work Committee". Greer avoided me personally, but trolled anyone who quoted my article, falsely claiming that my article misquoted Vance Muse, inventor of "Right To Work". A great labor reporter, Moshe Marvit, forwarded me one of Greer's trolling emails he sent to Marvit's co-author of their book "Why Labor Organizing Should Be A Civil Right":


I had a librarian from the University of Nevada Las Vegas help me scan and send original page copies of the book "Southern Exposure" by the legendary undercover journalist Stetson Kennedy, in which the quotes were printed. For the rest of you—here is a photo from my own marked-up book of the Vance Muse quote Greer denies ever existed, published in 1946, in the heat of Muse's "Right To Work" campaign:

Muse2 Southern Exposure

That Vance Muse invented "Right To Work" is not in dispute: If you don't have time to read Kennedy's book [available here for free], you can read a more recent history of "Right To Work" by Dartmouth professor Marc Dixon in the "Journal of Policy History".


NOTE: For those of you unacquainted with "right to work" [definitely NOT the right to a job]--the law makes paying union dues or their equivalent optional for any worker who objects to paying them. It undercuts unions even as they are obliged to provide all union benefits, including grievance procedures, to those not paying. So workers are encouraged to seek union benefits like higher wages without paying union costs. These laws have been an effective way to undercut workplace unions. And they have now spread north from the south. Wisconsin is the 25th "right to union benefits without paying for them" state. Fortunately, it has been rejected recently "in New Hampshire, West Virginia, New Mexico and Maine. In Montana, no one but the sponsor of a right-to-work bill would testify for it. It failed there, too." [] jz

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