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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Meyerson: GOP War Against Unions Driven by Politics, Greed

In his Washington Post column, “The Lansing-Beijing connection,” Harold Meyerson has an interesting take on the right-to-work sneak attack in Michigan perped by the Republicans. Like China, explains Meyerson,

…The United States also has a problem of a rising gap between profits and wages. The stagnation of wages has become an accepted fact across the political spectrum; conservative columnists such as Michael Gerson and David Brooks have acknowledged that workers’ incomes seem to be stuck.
What conservatives haven’t acknowledged, and what even most liberal commentators fail to appreciate, is how central the collapse of collective bargaining is to American workers’ inability to win themselves a raise. Yes, globalizing and mechanizing jobs has cut into the livelihoods of millions of U.S. workers, but that is far from the whole story. Roughly 100 million of the nation’s 143 million employed workers have jobs that can’t be shipped abroad, that aren’t in competition with steel workers in Sao Paolo or iPod assemblers in Shenzhen. Sales clerks, waiters, librarians and carpenters all utilize technology in their jobs, but not to the point that they’ve become dispensable.
Yet while they can’t be dispensed with, neither can they bargain for a raise. Today fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are union members. That figure may shrink a little more with new “right to work” laws in Michigan — the propagandistic term for statutes that allow workers to benefit from union contracts without having to pay union dues.

Addressing the Republican argument that right-to-work laws are good for the economy, Meyerson responds:

…An exhaustive study by economist Lonnie K. Stevans of Hofstra University found that states that have enacted such laws reported no increase in business start-ups or rates of employment. Wages and personal income are lower in those states than in those without such laws, Stevans concluded, though proprietors’ incomes are higher. In short, right-to-work laws simply redistribute income from workers to owners…The gap between U.S. capital income and labor income hasn’t been this great since before the New Deal

Then Meyerson explains the real reason for the Republican war on unions: “The Republicans who took control of the Michigan statehouse in 2010 understand that Democrats’ foot soldiers come disproportionately from labor. GOP efforts to reduce labor’s clout help Republicans politically far more than they help any Michigan-based businesses or local governments. (The legislation, which Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law Tuesday evening, establishes right-to-work requirements for the public sector, too.)”
It’s primarily political. But the Republicans also want to help corporations to avoid sharing their record-level profits with the workers who produce their products. As Meyerson concludes, “…Workers don’t get raises if they can’t bargain collectively, and all the hand-wringing about our rising rates of inequality will be so much empty rhetoric unless we insist — in Lansing and Beijing — on workers’ right to form powerful unions.”
Those who want to get involved in fighting the war against unions in Michigan — regardless of where you live — should check out this ‘Take Action’ post at The Nation, and also read this TDS post by J.P. Green identifying household products sold by the anti-union Koch brothers, who reportedly supported the Michigan war against unions.

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