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Originally posted at Notes on a Theory

I just asked this question on Twitter, and realized I wasn't going to be able to explain it  in 140 characters.  So I thought I'd elaborate here. First, the question:

What do people think about reframing "the right to work" as just cause employment laws?

There has been a lot of talk about how we need to reframe the horribly inaptly named "right to work" laws, which essentially require unions to represent workers who refuse to join or otherwise support the union in any way.  Since no one is ever required to join a union, this whole framing in nonsense, a cover for a policy designed to weaken unions that can't be defended on the merits.

'Right to work for less' is a common one, but it is fairly clunky.  I like the idea of 'loafer laws' or even better, 'freeloader laws' (that one is from Matt Bruenig) which emphasize the free rider problem here.  I also like 'no rights at work' law.  Regardless, the question I'm asking is a different one.

What would a real right to work look like?  Instead of reframing the right-wing policy with a different name, we could attach a different policy to the name (in fact we could and probably should do both).  Rhetorically, we'd respond to the call for a 'right to work' by saying, 'absolutely we need a real right to work, which would mean X'  There are, as I see it, two options.

The first is the one I mentioned in my tweet - just cause employment laws.  These laws, which presently exist only in Montana, require employers to have a legitimate reason before firing an employee.  This is opposed to at will employment, where employers can fire for any reason or even no reason, as long as they don't run afoul of various anti-discrimination laws. (It's worth pointing out that because outside of these laws employers can fire at will, enforcing such anti-discrimination laws is more difficult). In essence, such laws ensure a basic level of due process, and reduce the arbitrary authority of employers while leaving intact legitimate authority.

Another way to reframe right to work would be a federal guarantee of a job, along the lines that Sandy Darity has proposed.  "His National Investment Employment Corps does that, he says, by creating real jobs that pay a minimum of $20,000 a year and $10,000 in benefits, including medical coverage and retirement savings," along the lines of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. This is a quite literal 'right to work.'

Does that make sense? And if so, what do you think?

[After this post first appeared, Richard Yeselson was tweeting about the first question, and offered “right to shirk.” I like that.]

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

    by David Kaib on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:19:06 PM PST

  •  Way back when (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Kaib, radarlady

    Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. - Mark Twain

    by GPMOAT on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:29:55 PM PST

    •  The right to a job (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      David Kaib, radarlady

      Yes, your post makes it obvious that you can't have "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" if you don't have any money and you have no way of making money.

      When President Obama was first elected and the recession was in full swing, he should have proposed the equivalent of the WPA and CCC programs in the 1930s - good jobs paying a living wage for anyone who wants one and paid for by the federal government. Not only would that have helped millions of people who've been ravaged by this recession, it would have gotten us out of the recession quickly. And full employment would have meant much, much higher tax revenue which would have erased much of the federal deficit. It was a perfect win-win solution, and at the time, President Obama could have pushed it through. Instead he compromised with Republicans and ended up with half-measures that just barely helped. At the time when we most needed bold, progressive leadership, instead we got bipartisan mush.

      But it looks like the Obama administration may have learned a lesson from this. At least now they are bargaining a little better. And the upcoming Congress will have more progressives, so maybe we'll get some Congressional leadership too.

  •  Either would be a step up. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Kaib, radarlady

    My husband lost one job when one partner in the company bought out the other two, and then proceeded to fire all the senior employees because they would kick up a fuss about the way he began treating the rest of them.

    Of course, he couldn't prove it, and as Indiana is an at-will state, they didn't have to give a reason, but discussions with other employees made that pretty clear.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 11:20:14 PM PST

  •  If bargaining for non-members is such an onerous (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    burden on a union, why would it not negotiate members-only contracts? It's perfectly legal.

    Poof. No more free riders.

    •  I think it would accelerate the death of unions. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      For a while, employers would pay a premium for workers who wouldn't join the union. Soon, the union would be voted out, then the employer would go back to treating employees badly.

      Well, it's no crazier then any other RW plan!

      -7.38, -5.38 (that's a surprise)

      I lie to myself because I'm the only one who continues to believe me. - Vermin

      by 84thProblem on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 03:46:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The NLRA makes it illegal to discriminate (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        for or against employees for excercising their rights to concerted activity.  I'm not a lawyer, but it would be hard to pay a premium based on non-union status, unless it's tied to seniority or proficiency (which can be a very subjective yardstick).  Contrary to popular opinion fostered by the media and educational system, many non-union workers are LESS proficient than their union peers.  I've been a steward in an "open shop" so I have first hand experience with this.

        "Hope, not despair, is the fuel for action." - William Manchester

        by brae70 on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:06:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  They aren't allowed to do that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence, radarlady

      under federal law.

      Of course, saying 'why wouldn't unions just negotiate something in their contracts' presumes a level of power for unions in relation to employers that is not necessarily typical.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 04:27:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not as far-fetched as it sounds. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Check out this article.

      "Hope, not despair, is the fuel for action." - William Manchester

      by brae70 on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:08:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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