Dec 10, 2012
In the last days of the lame-duck session before the holidays, Republicans in both the Michigan state House and Senate tried to sneak through so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation. About to see their big majority in the legislature reduced as the result of the 2012 elections, Republicans overrode all the normal procedures to wriggle something through before the new legislature takes over.
“Right-to-work,” as a name for these laws, is an outright, boldfaced lie. These laws have never given anyone the right to work, never gave anyone the right to a job. They have always been intended as wedge to weaken unions, as unions exist today.
Specifically, these laws say that no worker can be required to join a union, and no worker can be required to pay dues or agency fees to a union. The bills just introduced in Michigan cover either public or private sector employees, though police and firefighters unions would be exempt.
Obviously, the Republicans intend this legislation as an attack on the Democrats, who receive a sizeable amount of their campaign funds from union contributions.
But it’s also obvious that this legislation is intended as an attack on the possibility for unions to exist today – an attack carried out by the Republicans for the whole capitalist class.
The question is, how to defend against this attack. Trying to snuggle up to the politicians, Democrat or Republican, asking them to force workers to join unions, is no way for workers to protect themselves, nor to protect their ability to organize.
It’s certainly possible today that many workers, if given the chance, would decide not to pay dues. But that’s in part because the bureaucracy that sits on top of the unions has spent years siding with corporations in pushing concessions. The continual worsening of workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions in union shops has made some workers even question the need and desirability for unions.
But getting rid of unions will not stop the bosses’ attacks.
Workers need to organize themselves, and this means, among other things, to form unions or to join them when other workers have formed them.
It also means money. We exist in a society run on money. Why wouldn’t we pay dues if the union took our side?
The problem is to actually make the unions organizations of the working class, built by the working class, serving the interests of the working class.
We’re being pushed down because the capitalists and public officials are trying to lower our standard of living. The existing union leadership has not been ready to carry out a fight against the drive to impoverish us.
That’s the problem we face. That’s what we have to change.
We won’t defend ourselves without fighting. And we won’t have unions without fighting for them. Our grandmothers and grandfathers who built the unions didn’t get them because some politicians made them all sign up. They got their unions because they organized, because they fought to defend themselves and their standard of living.
The Republicans say that nothing in this legislation prevents workers from organizing a union. Let’s see what happens the first time workers try to organize themselves someplace. Will the Republicans rush in to defend the workers’ right to organize?
Who’s foolish enough to believe that?
The Democrats may be willing to require everyone to join a union, when one exists, and to make them all pay dues – so the Democratic Party can get their hands on some of it!
But that doesn’t make a union.
The emancipation of the workers will be carried out by the workers themselves – as Karl Marx once remarked.