We can’t stop, longtime Athens County labor leader Ted Linscott told a standing-room-only crowd at the local community center last Thursday night. Every day there is an effort to keep the working man down. Every day working people of Ohio need to fight it. And every day we will.
Linscott is the president of the Southeast Ohio Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO and he played MC to an event sponsored by We Are Ohio warning labor supporters in Ohio of plans afoot to bring a so-called “right to work” law to the Buckeye State. The law won’t be introduced until perhaps the 2016 lame duck session in December, or maybe in 2017, but anti-labor forces have not given up.
The crowd, packed with labor supporters, elected officials, candidates and regular folks from Athens, Washington and Vinton counties, knew already that right to work is wrong. They didn’t need to be told that so-called “right to work” laws undermine unions, lower wages and manifest unsafe working conditions. But this was a rallying cry, a call to arms to let the ALEC-written, Koch Brother agenda that’s been attacking the American mid-west with anti-labor bullpucky for years now that we will not stand idly by and take it.
“Right to work must be one of the most deceptive phrases I’ve ever heard,” IBW’s Jason Johnson told the crowd, pointing out that West Virginia’s state legislature is about to override the governor’s veto and pass a “right to work” law by a single vote majority. Not in one state have the people supported these odious proposals. So that’s how anti-labor lawmakers have to do their grimy work. “West Virginia is facing the same battle we will be facing sooner rather than later.”
This is not a false alarm. “Right to Work” is built on a lie. No one is ever forced to join a union. Anyone who claims that is either misinformed or lying. In fact, the phrase “right to work” was coined in the 1920s by a racist named Vance Muse, an anti-semite who fought anti-child labor laws. The people who support “right to work” laws in 2016 are the heirs of the same swine that’s been assaulting the labor movement for nearly 100 years.
Voters have never passed a ballot measure enacting “right to work” because they know it’s wrong. In Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, “R2W” laws were bullied through state legislatures by extremist lawmakers with the governors of those states signing the bills into law after previously having claimed they didn’t support them. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is currently hawking the line that Ohio doesn’t need R2W “right now.” Kasich says “not now,” not while he’s running for president, but once that dream of his is crushed, we all know what happens next.
R2W makes communities poorer. The median household income in “R2W” states is $535 less per month than in free-bargaining states like Ohio. The fatality rate is 36 percent higher in “R2W” states because workers lose their voices, their freedom, their rights.
It is We Are Ohio’s mission to educate the good people of Ohio on these facts before the assault begins. The group has held nearly 70 events across the state since 2013 letting people know what a boondoggle the state legislature has planned to assault workers’ lives.
R2W is nothing more than a huckster attempt to by CEOs and corporate interests to end unions as we know them and stack the deck even more in their favor at the expense of the middle class. After 40 years of stagnating wages and exploding wealth and income inequality, the middle class can’t afford to pick up the tab anymore. The moneyed interests are selling a lemon, and we’re not buying.
At the event, one Ohio University student spoke out by asking, when was the last time a bunch of billionaires spent millions of dollars to give workers more freedom and more rights on the job? The crowd knew the answer: Never.
In 2011, with the help of We Are Ohio, working people from across the Buckeye State stood up to anti-labor interests and overturned Senate Bill 5 by a margin of 62-38.
This time around, let’s not let them get even that far. Let’s show them the power of the people starting today. Get the word out, fight the anti-labor misinformation campaign, tell your friends and family. We have the power when we chose to use it. Right to Work is Wrong. We know that. Let’s make damn sure they know that we know it.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.