“Solidarity Isn’t a Purely Altruistic Concept”: On the ‘Right-to-Work’ Canard

So if you haven’t heard, Michigan’s Republican-controlled House and Senate, along with its Republican governor have turned Michigan into a ‘right-to-work’ state, which means that employees who benefit from union-based collective bargaining are not required to pay union dues. That’s also known as freeloading (though, these days, that seems to be unacceptable only if you’re a single, poor, minority mother). This is an attempt–which very well could be successful–to undermine the political power of unions. Historian Nelson Lichtenstein explains why the right-to-work argument is bullshit (emphasis mine):

Solidarity isn’t a purely altruistic concept. Unions have to be a combat organization, ready to fight the boss. That means there is an element of coercion involved. It’s like taxes. The price of civilization is taxes. The price of unionism is solidarity. And, yes, that does involve coercing people to contribute to the union. Unions are not like the NRA or the Sierra Club, they’re not purely voluntary organizations. They were given a slice of state authority in order to solve the problem of industrial violence.

It’s not that unions are as pure as the driven snow, far from it. They are, at best, only as good as their membership. But they are absolutely essential in combating corporate excesses and coercion.

At this point, the only right workers will have is the ability to quit–and unless you’re wealthy, that’s not really an option for most people. Which is probably the point of the whole exercise.

Related: Michigan went by ten points for Obama. But in 2010 Democratic voters didn’t show up, and the right took control (elections have consequences). Fundamental shifts in demographics don’t matter if you don’t turn out your demographics. This might be relevant to 2014.

This entry was posted in Civil Liberties, Unions. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Solidarity Isn’t a Purely Altruistic Concept”: On the ‘Right-to-Work’ Canard

  1. Cathy W says:

    Having been a union steward (in Michigan, even) – that’s something that seemed lost on a lot of the members, that sometimes the good of the whole was not the best good for each individual member. E.G.: I found myself representing someone who was accused of shoving another member of my union, with no witnesses. It really ticked off the guy who said he’d been shoved (“The union is supporting him over me!”), but the boss still had to make a solid case to fire the alleged shover… If any good comes out of right-to-work, it will be that the people left in the unions will be committed unionists, and more labor education will take place in an attempt to get the people who are on the fence to join.

  2. Paul Lenart says:

    Try joining you local Chamber of Commerce and enjoying all benefits thereof without paying the dues. Lots of luck.

Comments are closed.