Tooth and nail against “right to work”

February 27, 2017

I AGREE with the general perspectives on the issue of the Republicans and "Right to Work (For Less)" legislation. Without question, it is on the top of their lists. But I take issue with one or two of the points made in "The right's "right-to-work" onslaught" published at

First, it isn't true that a national "right to work" initiative has to go "through a Supreme Court decision." Yes, currently this issue is given to the states to decide under the Taft-Hartley Act. What a national right-to-work bill would do is eliminate the state mandate on this question, leaving it in the hands of the federal government through a congressional act. Such an act would be "simply" a revision of Taft Hartley.

There simply is nothing preventing this because it is Taft-Hartley itself that mandates this question to the states. The Taft-Hartley Act would thus be the vehicle by which right-to-work would be enacted nationally. No Supreme Court actions are necessary, though no doubt there would be litigation taking the question to the Supreme Court.

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Second, the other issue is what to do about this. Socialist Worker correctly takes up In These Times' bizarre position that there is, in effect, other issues to organize around and not this one. But unions won't go away under a national right-to-work act, though it would weaken them.

And its passage will encourage new, more extreme legislation sitting on the back burner, such as their real Christmas wishes: the outright outlawing of labor unions under the banner of "economic terrorism"; or the legal metamorphosis of a "wage worker" into a "salaried subcontractor," which eliminates all overtime rights and any benefits based on hourly wage. This is how many construction workers, all nonunion, work in the state of Texas. As they are sub-contractors, they are not allowed, by law, to organize.

But unions can and will organize despite such legislation, as the example of the shipyard workers in right-to-work-for-less Indiana illustrates. Fighting this tooth and nail, then, when it passes, to return to the days of militant organizing and job actions will be critical for the labor movement to survive.
David Walters, San Francisco

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