“Right-to-Work” Legislation: Same Shit, Different Century

factory workers 1920A couple of weeks ago Andrea Neal, who is, I suppose, Indy’s version of a local Weekly Standard columnist, offered a propaganda piece about “Right-to-Work” legislation in the HT.  She begins with some “headlines” that purport to illustrate what will follow in her piece, though they are obviously just words out of context and so have no meaning that we can fully understand.  But where propaganda is concerned, details are useful and truth is malleable.

It doesn’t take an economist to spot the common thread in these recent economic development headlines:

Chattanooga, Tenn., July 29: “Volkswagen hires 2,000th employee.”

Shreveport, La., July 28: “NJ-based bag manufacturer to build Louisiana plant.”

Decatur, Ala., July 21: “Polyplex to build $185 million plant.”

West Point, Ga., July 7” “Kia builds vehicle No. 300,000.”

All four stories have southern datelines. All come from states with right-to-work laws, which prohibit labor contracts that require employees to join a union or pay a union representation fee.

As I read this my first thought is, oh, you mean in the slave states?

Also, I believe right-to-work legislation REQUIRES unions to represent EVERYONE regardless of whether they pay dues or not.  In other words, Unions are being beaten with their own liberal stick.  The Union would have to use member dues to represent the worker who pays no dues.  In a sense, the employer could use this nifty law to bankrupt the Union quite readily

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This really does offer a great example of Bakunin’s formulation, offered by Chomsky in his On Democracy and Education:

Bakunin, “predicted that there would be two forms of modern intellectuals, what he called the ‘Red Bureaucracy’, who would use popular struggles to try to take control of state power and institute the most vicious and ruthless dictatorships in history, and the other group, who would see that there isn’t going to be an access to power that way and would therefore become the servants of private power and the state capitalist democracy, where they would, as Bakunin put it, ‘beat the people with the people’s stick,’ talk about democracy but beat the people with it. That’s actually one of the few predictions in the social sciences that’s come true, to my knowledge, and a pretty perceptive one.” (248)

This is what “free to choose” propaganda is all about; using the words of democratic philosophy to undermine workers’ access to protections (cf. the recent glut of promotional pieces on offer in “newspapers” sponsored, ie, written, by voucher pushers who brazenly call this a “choice” in education).

Discussing the “debate” further Neal goes on to offer the “beating stick” of “choice”:
The policy question remains: Which is better? A state with higher wages for some but a weaker economy overall or one with lower wages for some and more vibrant growth, not to mention freedom of choice for the worker?
She then offers another “club” with which the business community beats workers (citizens, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters)–the warning/threat (and it’s not just a threat) of “capital flight”:

Companies are voting with their feet. To the extent that manufacturers are expanding in the United States — and few are — they are choosing the South and West where right-to-work is prevalent.

Neal asserts, with no justification whatsoever, that

Right-to-work does not destroy unions. It gives workers the right to decide for themselves whether to join. “This greater accountability results in unions that are more responsive to their members and more reasonable in their wage and work rule demands,” says the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

That lovely quote comes from the one of the myriad Right Wing “policy”outlets offering research and expertise in order to advance a very specific agenda–though of course it’s “non-partisan”.  Here is what they offer as their “point of view”:

Modern economic experience demonstrates overwhelmingly that the free market is a powerful engine of economic prosperity. Nations the world over are clamoring to shed the chains of central planning and unleash the creative energy of free men and women. The principles of the American Revolution — individual liberty, limited government, the free market and the rule of law — have become the dominant paradigm of enlightened society.

I feel so patriotic when I read such stirring words, “Give me Free Markets or give me Death…and by gum do not give me bargaining protections!”  Psst.  Did you know that “free markets” is a term of art (that means a lie) to make you think it’s something every liberty-lover should want.  That’s what “school choice” is too.  These are terms designed, like all capital markets and the folks who want you to bleed for them, to coerce your assent.  There’s also nothing “patriotic” about the Patriot Act, in case you were wondering.

Neal ends, in familiar fashion, with a false dichotomy enlisted to make it clear that there is only ONE option any right-thinking person would choose.  (And note, if there’s only one “right” choice, is it a choice?)

It should come as no surprise to Indiana legislators that expanding industries favor that kind of relationship. The legislative choice is between protecting unions as we know them or protecting the long-term interests of Hoosier workers.

That is Propaganda 101.  “Protect” evil unions or Hoosiers–use the maligned term as it’s a faceless bureaucratic entity and compare it with the local, self-descriptor of residents–Hoosiers.

I even love her little bio–

Andrea Neal is a teacher at St. Richard’s School in Indianapolis and adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at aneal@inpolicy.org.

She’s a teacher (but I thought they were “bad” these days–don’t use Facebook Andrea!) at a religious school (where they love choice, if Jesus says it’s okay, and if their male clergy says it’s okay), and a “scholar”–adjunct meaning “not really”–at another one of those Right Wing Ideology Shops.  How many of those darn things are there?

Anyway, you obviously know where I stand on this.  But it may be useful for you to do a little research on how business propaganda like this has shaped your entire worldview since the early 20th Century.

Neal actually references the Wagner Act of 1935 (probably a very evil thing to her) that required management to bargain with representatives of labor.  Before this act, attempts by workers to protect themselves against industrial capitalism’s abuses by organizing were met more often than not with violence.  This act made the US a great country, one that truly believed that ALL people should be given a chance to fair working conditions and fair wages.  Of course, it only took 12 years for the business interests in the US to destroy that act of humanity when their minions in Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.

I won’t try your patience further, but I would suggest you look up The Mohawk Valley Formula to see how business propaganda was perfected in 1919 by the Remington Rand Corporation and still operates today.  (Spend some time looking at the work of the National Association of Manufacturers, too).

But bear with me a little more.  Alex Carey offers this gloss on the work of Walter Lippmann (1932) and Harold Lasswell (1927) [my bold]:

‘The manufacture of consent…was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy,’ Walter Lippmann wrote.  ‘But it has not died out.  It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique…Under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer possible…to believe in the original dogma of democracy‘, that is, that it necessarily reflects the popular will in any significant way. …Harold Laswell…reached similar conclusions.  In 1927 he warned that with the decline of the authority of crown, church and social class, and the rise of egalitarianism generally,propaganda had become the principal method of social control.  ‘If the mass will be free of chains of iron’, he concluded mordantly, ‘it must accept chains of silver.  If it will not love, honour and obey, it must not expect to escape seduction.

My favorite part of the above is that Lasswell, in 1927, notes three things in decline that were methods of social control: the crown (or state?), the church, and social class.  Sound familiar to you?  How wonderful would it be to imagine a sustained “rise of egalitarianism”!  Alas, it has been crushed and we have reverted back to those three methods of social control.  But hey, you’re “free” to “choose” which version of these that manipulates you.

The formulations of freedom and liberty are hammered into our minds again and again in order to promote a conception that privileges a minority class and a minority interest.  Why, you have to ask, do folks like Andrea Neal serve this master?

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