December 12, 2012

State Comparisons: Right to Work and Beyond

Justin Katz

A stunningly biased article by AP writer Jeff Karoub on the front page of today's Providence Journal likely captures the attitude of most in the Rhode Island media on the issue of right-to-work legislation, as enacted into law in Michigan, yesterday:

The GOP-dominated House ignored Democrats’ pleas to delay the final passage and instead approved two bills with the same ruthless efficiency that the Senate showed last week. One measure dealt with private-sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them both within hours, calling them “pro-worker and pro-Michigan.”

Yes, that plea-ignoring, ruthless GOP. Not mentioned in the article, in the paper, or in any mainstream RI media that I've seen was reportage of a unionist mob tearing down a large tent set up by Americans for Prosperity, while bystanders plead with them to stop because people were inside, and physically attacking a conservative commentator, after a Democrat legislator promised that "there will be blood."

The Projo's reporters are a unionized subset of the AFL-CIO, after all.

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"What are a few looted mansions compared to their looted lives?", Marat/Sade.

This is not to condone violence, but it's a valid question which the main stream media never asks. You might want to consider the whole problem before you let loose your crocodile tears.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at December 12, 2012 8:06 AM


In the current context, you pretty clearly are condoning violence.

Posted by: Andrew at December 12, 2012 8:33 AM

I am all for deunionizing the public sector, since the state does not have the same self interest as private sector management in order to make for effective collective bargianing at the negotiating table (which is how we wound up with unsustainable state benefit promises) but I fail to see how desimating private sector unions is good for the country as a whole. Private unions aren't solely responsible for the destruction a certain businesses - in many cases, ineffective managment is just as responsible.

Posted by: Sully at December 12, 2012 8:52 AM

Michigan unions can no longer monopolize a workforce and coerce workers into spending $500-1000/year on Democratic campaign contributions and six-figure labor boss salaries - oh, the injustice of it all.

Any "7 out of the top 10" statistic should immediately raise eyebrows. Why not "7 out of the top 11", etc. Roll a die 10 times and you are likely to get 70% of your rolls below 4 or above 3 out of pure chance. In a set as small as 50, it only makes sense to look at all the data points. It really just comes down to how you want to cherrypick and carve the data, or what specific metrics you want to focus on at the expense of others. For example, unemployment is higher in non-right-to-work states - case closed? Then there's the age-old causation/correlation issue.

Posted by: Dan at December 12, 2012 9:06 AM

Sully - I agree to the extent that "de-unionization" isn't an inherently good or bad development, nor would it be an appropriate public policy. What I object to is forcing workers to join unions and pay dues against their will, which is the policy of closed-shop states such as Rhode Island. Just as I would object to an employer being granted a monopoly in services over a geographic area, I object to unions being granted monopolies over workforces through force of law. Right to work does nothing in itself to prohibit or limit collective bargaining, but employees voluntarily leaving unions when given the option can have a crippling effect. What unions should ask themselves is why they immediately lose half their membership the moment membership becomes voluntary and why the value that is so obvious to them isn't obvious to those workers who think they can better use that $500-1000/year or would rather self-represent.

Posted by: Dan at December 12, 2012 9:50 AM

OTL sums up the RI public sector union mentality--what you think is yours is really mine--and I have a right to take it.

Posted by: Mike at December 12, 2012 11:18 AM

Dan - I would agree if we were talking about true self-representing, in other words, the union members get what in the collective bargaining agreement and the nonunion members are on their own for pay, benefits, and workplace protections. However, my understanding is that those who get to opt out still recieve the same pay and benefits as under the collective bargaining agreement. That is completely unfair to the union that negotiates the contract.

Posted by: Sully at December 12, 2012 12:07 PM

While the non-union labor force does get the benefit of union collective bargaining, if that has a real value to the individual laborer, then any drop in collected dues that results in erosion of bargaining power can be publicized and employed by union leadership in their recruitment campaigns. With current labor laws much of the abuse that unions were originally organized in response to has been regulated out of existing. Maybe they will think about using remaining avialable money in actual support of their membership rather than political influence peddling.

Posted by: Jon at December 12, 2012 1:06 PM

That can be true, Sully (although one can question whether some workers actually benefit from their unions), but that isn't the result of right-to-work legislation. That is the result of the federal Wagner Act, which state law cannot supersede. Although I realize you may not be making this argument, I don't think it necessarily follows that people should be forced to pay in any situation with externalized benefits. For example, I shouldn't be forced to pay legal fees if a lawyer successfully sues my landlord on behalf of a client, resulting in better conditions in all properties. Nor should I have to pay the ACLU or the NRA for any of their advocacy that may result in a benefit to me. In theory, I wouldn't object to revising the Wagner Act to turn employment into a truly free-agent relationship, but until that happens, right-to-work is the most equitable choice the states have at the moment.

Posted by: Dan at December 12, 2012 1:09 PM

I would also like to point out that under current case law unions aren't obligated to give non-dues-paying members of bargaining units equally effective representation. They can legally move you to the back of the list if you ever ask for anything. My workplace's union made it VERY clear to me that if I didn't pay dues I was the enemy and could expect no substantive help from them. That's more than fine with me because my union is run by hyper-aggressive Marxist lunatics who more often than not end up hurting the careers of those they try to help. I don't want their representation under any circumstances, and it sickens me to think I could ever be legally obligated to pay such people.

Posted by: Dan at December 12, 2012 1:24 PM

"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations."

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at December 12, 2012 1:30 PM

Andrew, you fail to see the point. I'm not calling for violence, I'm pointing it out in a form which you and most of yours fail to recognize; it's violence against the workers - reduction in hours and wages, firings, layoffs with little or no recourse that is the violence, and no one dares speak its name. Andrew, you probably know better, but you chose to turn a blind eye to the full problem. I'd say you show willful ignorance as opposed to someone like Mike who demonstrates true ignorance.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at December 12, 2012 2:13 PM

OTL - What you describe - wage cuts and the like - is not literal violence. It is an unfavorable change in the terms of a voluntary relationship, and the worker is free to leave or start their own business. There is a world of difference between metaphorical violence and real physical violence, such as what was displayed at the Michigan union protest. Based on your philosophy, we understand why you are eager to conflate the two situations and use one to justify the other.

As an aside, I wonder if you will be philosophically consistent within your own framework and call union-driven wage raises violence against the employer. Keep with your usual pattern and call me names if it helps you.

Posted by: Dan at December 12, 2012 2:28 PM

I wonder if the politicians in the "Motor City" have gotten the message.

Despite the skills and experience of the work force in Michigan, all of the foreign manufacturers are opening plants in "right to work" states.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 12, 2012 2:31 PM

I see your point, and I am not going to pretend to be well versed in labor law, but I liken it more to a having join a homeowners' association. while I understand that there aren't federal and state laws protecting homeowners' associations, like there are for unions (though the courts protect HOA provisions), I don't think one should be entitled to get the benefits of a homeonwers association (e.g. clubhouse, trash pickup, common are maintenance), and not be required to join and pay thedues. If you don't like the way the HOA operates, live someplace else.

In the end, I think a true free agency is ideal union members get the collectivly bargianed rights and nonunion members negotiate for themselves (for better or worse), but I think requiring an employee who chooses to work at closed shop to join a union is more equitable that allowing an employee to opt out, yet receive the benefits of collective bargaining, even if they fall to the back of the line in terms of help from the union (which they really shouldn't be entitled to in the first place).

That said, I think they would be best served by not blindly hitching their trailer to the democratic party and allowing both parties to try and get their votes, rather than allow the Dems to take their vote for granted.

Posted by: Sully at December 12, 2012 2:42 PM


I agree with Dan. You are either stretching the meaning of the term beyond any reason, or else laying the groundwork for using violence (as traditionally defined) in response to not getting your way in a peaceful political process or commercial transaction.

Posted by: Andrew at December 12, 2012 8:25 PM


I think your comparison of a Homeowner's Association (I have heard some tales of those)and a labor union fails for an obvious reason. The Homeowners own the homes, the Labor Union does not "own" the jobs.

I think it is a better comparison to say that Homeowner's Associations cannot prevent Jewish ownership, as they once did; whereas Unions are able to exclude people who do not share their "faith" from working. For some reason, housing "co-operatives" can exclude people.

Face it, the unions extracted the laws that they wanted in another time, from needy politicians who wanted to keep their jobs. There is little point in now searching for logical support for those laws.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 12, 2012 8:43 PM


I think considering parallels between unions and Homeowner's Associations has some merit, but my honest response to the comparison is that I think it's nuts to let developers or "boards of directors" in the 21st century use the device of an HA to act like feudal barons.

Even without the context of right-to-work, I'd be arguing that HAs either need to be treated like municipal governments and subject to all of the same limitations, or else they should be fully optional.

Posted by: Andrew at December 12, 2012 8:51 PM

The exchange between labor and business is an unfavorable exchange based upon an unequal relationship which causes great hardship to the greater number of people for the benefit of the few.

The social violence done is very real; it's metaphorical only in your text books.

Capital organizes itself around corporations and limited ownership companies, and that is perceived as a good and a right. Labor organizes itself by forming a human collective, and this is somehow perceived as taking unfair advantage of capitalists, as Socialism and therefore evil.

And your solution for those who don't like it is to leave the job or open a business. This is of course basically impossible since 90 to 98% of the labor work force is living from paycheck to paycheck and kids have to be fed and rent has to be paid.

Productivity rises, profits increase and the average workers wages decrease. Nothing's wrong. Everything's normal.

Andrew, I thought you knew better. My mistake. Alas!

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at December 12, 2012 11:01 PM

OTL - I don't subscribe to the Marxist view that employment is exploitation. I am familiar with the downtrodden underclass of which you speak - most of them have smart phones now, or did you think they were all bought by rich people to have one in every room of their house? "Poor" in capitalist countries means two cars, a television, internet, and air conditioning. Literally no one is starving in the United States - an unprecedented feat in human history. We have so much food we don't know what to do with it all. The alcoholic homeless man on my walk to work feeds the pigeons with bread every morning. Capitalism is responsible for this incredible surplus.

Top-down central planning is an inefficient and extremely abuse-prone resource distribution scheme that has resulted in nothing but human misery and tragedy every time it has been tried in the world. We're unlikely to find common ground in any of this, since I find your view of social dynamics and economic behavior grossly oversimplified and hopelessly naive. There are millions of small business owners in the United States, hundreds of thousands being created and destroyed every year. 240 million people found new jobs during this recession. I'm not sure how any of this would be possible if the system was a stagnant, rigged, and hopeless as your narrative claims it to be. Things get worse and worse according to you, and yet people live longer than ever and have a higher standard of living and more "stuff" than ever before. When you speak your tale of Marxist woe I'm reminded of the old Groucho Marx line - who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

Posted by: Dan at December 12, 2012 11:36 PM

Unions,where were you when I was struggling to survive on minimum wage in the jewelry factories?

You drove up the prices,which made my life so much harder and didn't give a damn about representing people like me.

Posted by: helen at December 13, 2012 12:29 AM


What do you think about a legislative body controlled by one party enacting laws in less than one week without public comment and limiting debate with the minority party? And doing this in a lame duck session just weeks before new members elected weeks ago can take their seats? You and your contributers routinely bemoan the corrupted process coming from a one party controlled General Assembly here in RI. Any thoughts on the situation in Michigan seen through that lens?

Posted by: Phil at December 13, 2012 6:03 AM


You simplify the richness of human experience down into membership in a group. Then you equate your group not getting what it wants to violence, so that retaliatory violence against individuals outside of your group is justified. So until paradise on earth arrives, violence against individuals outside of your group can always be justified. That's socialism in a nutshell.

Posted by: Andrew at December 13, 2012 8:57 AM

Your definition of socialism is unique unto yourself.

As to violence, I never condone it unless I'm willing to take part in it. I'm trying to get you to look at some lives looted by a system which says that greed is good. That's quiet violence, that's desperate violence. Check Thoreau. If you can't or won't see it we have nothing to say on the subject to each other.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at December 13, 2012 9:03 PM

OTL "Check Thoreau."

How many people realize that Thoreau was able to enjoy his respite on Walden Pond because he was an heir to a smallish fortune resulting from a method his father's developed to mass produce pencils?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 13, 2012 9:56 PM

I've seen the results of public sector unions at the state and city level in RI. There are some good workers--but they'd be good without the union--perhaps better if they didn't have to carry the load of the other, less industrious "workers." At least 1/2 the people in the shops were the most venal, entitled, excuse-making people it has been my misfortune to know. They are chronically allergic to a full day's work and their poor attitudes and work habits are enabled by union leaders. All one need do is look at the number--and cost--of public workers out on some or other disability to get a glimpse of the rot. Unions once served a purpose, but now do little but defend the indefensible.

Posted by: Mike at December 14, 2012 11:03 AM

"I'm trying to get you to look at some lives looted by a system which says that greed is good. That's quiet violence, that's desperate violence. "

OTL..2012 reality check. The public sector employee IS over compensated for the work he or she does versus the private sector. The violence is occurring because the ruse has been exposed and the union thugs are protecting their Golden Idols...AKA union dues.

Posted by: ANTHONY at December 16, 2012 10:49 PM
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