Time for Americans to get to work on saving unionsPublished 9:29am Thursday, April 3, 2014
It’s been a year since “Right to Work” or “Right to Work for Less” was implemented in the state of Michigan and it has done nothing to eradicate the economic challenges that we face. But then RTW was never about improving the economy of Michigan but about the long-term erosion of the political base of our nation’s labor unions.
Unions challenge the power of the GOP and the ability for corporations to generate record profits without being held accountable by the employees who generate them. RTW is nothing more than a power grab and eliminates the ability for America’s workers to stand up for themselves and demand that they be treated with respect and be afforded the ability to make a living wage.
RTW outlaws the capacity for unions to effectively collect dues in the workplace and allows nonunion members to opt out and still reap the benefits without having to pay for them.
Michigan was the 24th state in the nation to adopt RTW and the passage of other vicious antiunion laws is an attempt to render the 663,000 public and private sector union members in Michigan politically ineffective and to steal their voice. Many of these members are still under contracts and won’t be affected by RTW until those contracts expire and membership begins to weaken. Many union supporters feel that is when the damage from RTW will be felt by Michigan’s economy as wages slowly decline and communities begin to suffer as the middle class fades out of existence.
But threatening and bullying members is not the answer and will not win the hearts of American workers. Union Officers will have to work harder because the days of everyone supporting and wishing to join a union are over. The American public has begun to accept the antiunion rhetoric that has been heaped upon them for years and are now willing to give up the hard won benefits that our ancestors fought for. We have to remind them of the struggle, we have to rebuild union America once again.
I’ve been a union supporter my entire life and I never believed that I would witness the dismantling of one of the most basic institutions that made this country great. Because let’s face it, for many of us it’s our back that earns our living, and if we are going to tear it up so some other man can get rich then we deserve to be compensated for it.
If our nation’s unions are going to survive in this world of corporate greed they’re going to have to work for it and union members are going to have to get out there and recruit. We can no longer expect people to join because they’re supposed to or because they have to. We have to prove to them that through labor unity we can all prosper.
America’s unions are the only means for workers to be treated with respect and dignity, and hopefully they will realize it before it is too late.
William Crandell is a community activist and member of the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Democratic Party.