From the TUC

Anti-union fight in Michigan: Robert Reich and Martin Luther King

18 Dec 2012, By Guest

Martin Luther King

The battle is raging in the USA between unions on the one hand and big corporations and the Republican Party on the other. Stung by Obama’s Presidential success and the role unions such as the Steelworkers and Autoworkers played in helping Obama win, big business and the Republicans are introducing  notorious ‘right to work’ laws in bid to try to hit back at unions in one of their heartland states.

These laws allow freeloading and will drive a race to the bottom, where workers can work for less and accept worse conditions than unionised co-workers. Originating in southern racist attempts to divide workers, they have just been forced through in Michigan without public debate.

President Obama opposes the ‘right to work’ laws stating that the issue is nothing more than a political football:

“These so-called ‘right to work’ laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

In this video Robert Reich, former US Labor Secretary and now a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, and ‘Viewpoint’ host Eliot Spitzer analyse why these laws are an attack or organised labour, and why they are bad for the economy and working people in the USA.

Reich explains their effect in simple terms as well as how they are used to drive down pay and conditions and push up the profits of billionaires such as the Koch Brothers. As Reich says:

“As labour unions have declined, workers have had less power, and — significantly — the median wage has declined in tandem. In fact, over the last 30 years, most workers have seen no increase in their wages at all,”

Last week Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers addressed a meeting of Unite officials and staff following a full meeting of the Workers Uniting board in London on the successful campaign to get President Obama re-elected and the attack now being mounted by Republicans. He sent this rallying call to Steelworker members across the USA and Canada:

“Sisters and brothers – the attack on workers and unions continues as evidenced by what happened in Michigan, where so-called ‘right to work’ was passed. The corporate cronies who tried to buy our election will try to push this anti-union legislation through many more states. As we continue to fight back, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are as relevant today as they were when he said them 50 years ago. Please share his quote below with everyone you know and keep fighting! What would Martin Luther King Jr. tell Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder about the so called ‘right to work bill’ his party is rushing into law? Here’s what Dr. King said in 1961:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”