Beck: Democrats Idly Watch Republicans Kneecap Organized Labor

Labor News

Reprinted from Splice Today by Chris Beck on January 29, 2017.

“’Right-to-work’ laws may sound like a good thing, because who could possibly argue against anyone’s right to work?” writes Chris Beck in Splice Today. “The 28 so-called American ‘right-to-work states’ prohibit making union membership a prerequisite for employment in any workplace. In other words, workers opting out are able to reap all of the substantial benefits the union has fought for without having to contribute to the union. It’s a free ride. Right-to-work states tend to have lower average wages and lower standards of living. As President Obama put it, ‘What they are really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.’

“Going after the enemy’s bank account is an effective strategy. Right-to-work laws have been the major GOP weapon in their long war on labor, dating back to the first one in Florida in 1943. Donald Trump’s election has energized the already intense Republican anti-union crusade, which Democrats need to be intensely aware of. According to a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, right-to-work legislation has typically decreased Democratic presidential vote share by 3.5 percent. The researchers found a similar effect on down-ballot elections down to the state legislature level. They estimate that right-to-work laws lead to both a 5-10 percent drop in Democratic representation in state legislatures and a left-to-right watering down of liberalism in the direction of the Blue Dog variety practiced in West Virginia.

“As both Wisconsin and Michigan enacted right-to-work laws before the last presidential election, it’s conceivable that that had more influence on swinging the election than the Russian interference Democrats are fixated on. Republicans have made some gains in the polls in the wake of the passage of the tax bill, and in 2018, five Democratic senators—Joe Donnelly, Tammy Baldwin, Debbie Stabenow, Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin—are up for re-election in states that have passed right-to-work laws since 2012. …

Splice Today 1/29

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Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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