Friday, December 14, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #86 - Part 3

Michigan passes "right to earn less" law

Ever since GOPpers took control of the Michigan state government two years ago, they have been drooling at the thought of destroying the ability of workers to work together to defend and advance their interests. One of the plans was to make Michigan a so-called "right to work" state. But Gov. Rick Snyder said that "wasn't on the agenda" because it would be "too divisive."

But two things happened in November: One, a labor-backed proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have enshrined the right to collective bargaining suffered a clear loss, suggesting a moment of weakness for labor. Two, the GOPpers lost seats in the legislature, so their own position wouldn't be as strong once the new legislature was sworn in. Something had to be done and it had to be done now.

So last week, Gov. Snidelywhiplash announced at a press conference that he would support a bill to make Michigan a "right to work" state. That was at 11AM. By 8PM that same day, bills to do exactly that had been introduced in and passed by the state Senate without any committee hearings or opportunity for public comment. After a mandatory 5-day waiting period, the state House did the same and Snidelywhiplash signed it within hours.

Let's be clear about what the bull about "right to work" really means. First off, it doesn't have a damn thing to do with having a right to work; it has nothing to do with having a right to a job, so don't even think that. Legally, it means that workers can't be required to join a union or pay a fee equivalent to union dues in order to work at a unionized business. More exactly, these laws make it illegal for unionized workers to negotiate a contract that requires each employee who benefits from that contract to pay their share of the costs of negotiating and policing it.

In practical reality, what it means is the "right" to see unions undermined, the "right" to see unions forced out, and so the "right" to see workers returned to being serfs on the lords' feudal estates, the "right" to a shrunken future, the "right" to get less pay, lower benefits, and zero job security, the "right" to stand alone against the corporation and be told you are on equal footing. In other words, it is the "right" to get screwed.

These laws are being sold on two bases: One is More Jobs!

But studies have shown that "right to work" laws have not boosted employment growth in the states that have them. In fact, for states that are looking to high-tech jobs, to “knowledge” sector jobs, these laws can actually hurt their economies.

The other argument being used is “fairness” or, in its extreme version, “freedom.” Again, the "freedom" is the "freedom" to get paid less, the "freedom" to have no say, the "freedom" to have no protection, the "freedom" to be screwed.

But why the push? Why do these people want it? Why do they want it so bad? Because they know what they want to keep you from knowing, they understand what they desperately hope you don’t understand.

The top graph on the right is what they hope you don’t know, don’t understand: The red line is corporate profits as a percentage of GDP since the end of World War 2. The blue line is wages as a percentage of GDP over that same time. I want you to notice that blue line, the trend in that blue line since 1970.

Then look at the next graph. It's what's called a GINI graph, or more exactly a graph of a GINI index. The GINI index is a means of measuring the income inequality in a nation. The higher the GINI index, the greater the inequality. This graph shows how the GINI index for the US has changed since 1965.

So what has that got to do with this? What has that got to do with what I'm talking about?
Check the bottom graph: The blue line is the share of national income going to middle class over the last several decades. The red line is the portion of the middle class who are union members. You can see they go down together. The less unions, the less income. Do you really think there is no connection? Do you really think there is no connection between that graph and what's been happening? Do you really think there is no connection between that graph and the anti-union campaigns of these GOPpers and corporate flacks?

They look at the top graph and they know that they are the red line and you are the blue line and they see that blue line going down and they want it to keep going down. And they know that third graph is what keeps that red line going up and what keeps that blue line going down and that GINI graph going up.

When they say anything they do is for your benefit, they are lying to you.


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