George Graham

The Sinister Strategy Behind Union Busting

Like a wounded grizzly bear, the Republican Party is still dangerous. Very dangerous. You might think they would be chastened by the American people’s rejection in November, but they’re not. They are more determined than ever to reshape American society to their liking. Sure, some of them are making reasonable, even conciliatory sounds (I never thought I would hear Ann Coulter talk sense, for example), but my mother always told me actions speak louder than words.

The action is taking place mostly under the radar.  While the nation is distracted by “fiscal cliff” theatrics, Republican controlled state governments are attacking the roots of American democracy.

In Michigan, for example, the turncoat Republican governor blind sided labor leaders with a surprise attack on union-shop agreements.

Governor Rick Snyder railroaded  a right-to-work bill through the legislature’s current lame duck session. The same Snyder who vowed never to consider such a law while he was campaigning. Now, he claims it’s for the workers’ own good.

The way he looks at it now, a right-to-work law would give individual workers the freedom not to join the union representing employees where they work. And you know how Republicans love to talk about freedom.

But labor leaders want to know why employees should have all the benefits of union representation without paying union dues. They point to statistics showing that right-to-work legislation inevitably undermines union membership and eventually leads to the unions’ demise. In right-to-work states, they say, wages end up being much lower than in states that protect union shops. It seems clear that the “freedom” Snyder promises means freedom to work for less.

It’s a joke to suggest that protecting individual workers is a priority for Snyder. Republicans don’t give a hoot about workers; they quite openly go to the mat for the boss. What I see all across the country is a coordinated campaign to bust the unions. It has intensified in the past couple of years – ever since the Republicans captured legislatures across America in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article back in January 2011:

…in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.

For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.

 That was no coincidence. A coordinated attack is under way on America’s political system and on American society as we know it.

About half of America’s states have right-to-work laws, but they have been until now clustered mainly in the Southeast. And for several years the right-to-work movement was dormant. When Indiana became the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law in February, it was the first such law passed in a decade. Now, the movement is gathering steam.

It is masterminded by the malevolent forces that have gained control of the Republican Party, the hidden forces that fund conservative think tanks, specious “grassroots protests” and Tea Party activism.

The Nation magazine’s John Nichols describes the Michigan offensive as “a bold anti-labor initiative launched in coordination with a Koch Brothers–funded Americans for Prosperity project to ‘pave the way for right to work in states across our nation.’ ”

Why would billionaires like the Koch Brothers want to see right-to-work laws spread across America?

One obvious reason is their natural enmity toward workers’ organizations. Tycoons like the Kochs do not relish challenges from their minions. Another is the desire to destroy the Democratic Party. By crushing organized labor, the plutocrats will choke off the Democrats’ main source of funds and – even more vital – the foot soldiers who knock on doors, man field offices and get out the vote.

And there might be an even more sinister conspiracy at work here.

You may have read about a resurgence in American manufacturing. Foreign car makers, are operating plants in right-to-work states like Tennessee, for example. There are many reasons for this. It makes sense to assemble cars close to the market in which they will be sold, for one. The American dollar’s decline is another. But have you wondered what might really be going on?

What I see is a global leveling of wages, which is making America more attractive to manufacturers. As foreign workers demand more humane conditions, American workers are settling for less. By destroying America’s unions, the multinational corporations (through their political agents) are accelerating this process. Inevitably, American workers will lose the “exceptionalism” they have enjoyed for so long.

The implications for our society are too complex for me to wrap my brain around… especially as the destruction of the unions will impoverish political opposition and leave the working population at the mercy of global plutocrats.

Click here for the latest on the Snyder story.

Click here for the official GOP position on unions.

 Click here for a history of union busting.

Click here to read more about right-to-work laws.

Click here to refresh your memory on the Kochs.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com