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OP-ED | Poll Shows State Supports Philosophy Behind ‘Right-To-Work’

by | Aug 15, 2014 7:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Labor, Opinion

If you told someone the people of Connecticut would support a “Right-to-Work” law, they’d probably think you were crazy. This blue state would never support a law that is so completely a red state phenomenon, right?

And if we asked people directly if they support instituting a right-to-work law in Connecticut, they might still say no. However, when you ask them if they support the idea behind right-to-work — that people should have a choice about whether or not they have to belong to a union — they overwhelmingly say yes.

The evidence: A poll of 500 residents, conducted in July by Google Consumer Surveys, found that 75 percent of respondents said “yes” when asked: “Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?”

Which is another way of saying that they support what ‘right-to-work’ stands for — a person’s right to choose whether or not to belong to a union, and by extension, whether or not to give that union money. Presently in Connecticut, workers do not enjoy that right.

The term “right-to-work” has become so politically charged it is likely harming the chance that any pro-choice labor union laws could pass here. Both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley have said they won’t consider giving workers the right to choose. They are both wrong.

Connecticut’s job growth is anemic and a right-to-work law could help. According to a 2011 Office of Legislative Research report, right-to-work laws positively influence job growth, while they have no affect on wages (when cost of living is factored in).

Unions have used our fears about jobs and wages when arguing against right-to-work laws. That is understandable given that the clearest outcome of right-to-work laws is that they weaken labor unions. That is because, when given the choice, many workers choose to give up their union membership.

But shouldn’t that be their right?

One of the most common arguments against right-to-work laws — and what the U.S. Supreme Court said when it upheld forced unionization laws in 1977 — is that if people leave their unions and don’t pay union dues but still get to enjoy the fruits of their union’s contract negotiations they are essentially free riders.

But what if you don’t like what your union is doing? What if you are a teacher who doesn’t believe in tenure? (It could happen!) Or a state employee who is concerned about our pension debt and doesn’t agree with the contracts negotiated on her or his behalf? In those situations in Connecticut, a person would be forced to pay for something they don’t believe in and that they are opposed to. That’s wrong.

Right to work laws do not stop people from unionizing, nor do they keep people from staying in a union if that is what they want to do. They just give people a choice.

Connecticut’s economy is stuck in the 20th century. Despite the big increase in state spending under Gov. Malloy, he hasn’t been able to jolt the economy awake.

A right-to-work law would move us firmly into the 21st century.

These laws favor younger workers, who often look for greater mobility and flexibility when making employment decisions. Traditional union jobs don’t offer that. Unionized workers, like teachers and state employees, often have to work decades before they get many of the benefits their unions have negotiated.

A right-to-work law would also show businesses that we are prepared to make it easier to grow here in Connecticut. For too long we have sent the other message — that you play by our rules or you leave. So they left.

We are part of a global economy now. Wealth is mobile in a way that it wasn’t just a few short decades ago. That makes us uneasy, which is understandable. But this globalization has lifted a billion people out of extreme poverty worldwide, even as it has left our middle class stagnant.

But look ahead 20 years — if we can continue to spread wealth and prosperity globally, it will eventually lift us all.

We should be grateful for the work the unions did last century to make the U.S. a safer and better place to live and work. But after the important battles were won times changed and the world market opened up, only unions didn’t adapt to the new economic reality. Instead they clamped down, forcing many of our best jobs overseas.

It’s time to refocus our energies, to give up this union/anti-union battle. One of the ways we can do that is by passing a right-to-work law in this state, and then let the people decide.

Suzanne Bates is the policy director for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. She lives in South Windsor with her family. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(6) Archived Comments

posted by: Stingy Blue | August 15, 2014  10:59am

A few counterpoints.

First, citing a Google Consumer Surveys poll commissioned by the Yankee Institute as “evidence” is misleading at best.  We have no way of knowing the publishers whose sites the survey was placed on, nor the demographic makeup of the respondents. 

Second, the statistics in the OLR paper that Ms. Bates cites are cherry-picked from right-wing organizations - The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee.  These NRTW organizations are part of the national right-wing network led by the Koch brothers.  Reed Larson, who led these NRTW groups for over three decades, hails from Wichita, Kansas, the hometown of Charles and David Koch. Larson became an early leader of the radical right-wing John Birch Society in Kansas, which Fred Koch (the father of Charles and David) helped found. Several other founders and early leaders of the NRTWC were members and leaders of the John Birch Society, specifically the Wichita chapter of which Fred Koch was an active member.

Employers and employees, especially blue-collar employees, have a fundamentally unequal bargaining position.  Unions are the remedy to this - and as the US systematically busted up unions in the 1970s, middle class wages predictably stagnated.  Ms. Bates proposes to erode the middle-class “share of the pie” even more.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right to work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘work’. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining.”

posted by: shinningstars122 | August 15, 2014  8:41pm


Mrs. Bates is already promoting, the still unannounced, Foley/Somers silver bullet for economic success in Connecticut.


I think that for the majority of service workers in Connecticut they are not unionized.

Actually barely 15% of all US workers are unionized so in many ways this alarmist mentality is pure drama perpetuated by corporations and the plutocracy…which Tom Foley is a proud card carrying member.

Walmart, Whole Foods, and now the fast food industry are doing their best to keep collective bargaining out of the reaches of the people who would benefit the most from such efforts.

Why do you think the raising minimum wage has become such a important issue?

Contrast this against the painful reality that corporate CEO’s and executive salaries have soared up 725% since 1978.

43% in just 2010 and 2011 alone,even as we were still in the depths of the Great Recession.

US workers wages have flat lined for years with no let up in sight even as we have witnessed the greatest accumulation of wealth ever seen on the planet by fewer and fewer people.

Freedom of choice is one thing but when the only choices the American worker is given is borderline poverty and check to check existence.

That is reprehensible.

Mrs. Bates actually the 21st century will be about relearning what we forgot from the start of the 20th century.

I am sure you would have had a glorious times in opulence of the Gilded Age but sorry the voters of Connecticut will not be going back to the late 19th century in November.

posted by: SocialButterfly | August 16, 2014  8:17pm

I agree with Suzanne Bates. Connecticut’s economy is stuck in the 20th century need a right to work law to move into the 21st century. Gov. Malloy will not push a right to work law “as he wants to stay in bed with the unions to get their votes.”  It’s not what’s good for the state, it’s strictly “what’s good for Dan Malloy to stay in office.” His priority is strictly trying to keep himself in office by being politically correct. Which is the reason that voter’s must vote for Tom Foley, who is our best bet to get a right to work law on the books in Connecticut.

posted by: StopThink | August 17, 2014  9:00am

As a state employee I absolutely agree that employees should have the choice to be a part of the union or not.  You can, technically, NOT join the union, but you have to pay the fees regardless, so that is really no choice at all.  Why should I pay but not be able to vote? So I am a union member, although I absolutely do not want to be.  I see the union supporting workers who accomplish little. I see the union attempting to influence policies that in my opinion are not for the long-term benefit of all state residents and taxpayers. I saw the unions force a re-vote on the last major agreement when the results didn’t turn out how they wanted. I see my dues get spent on pizza parties that I don’t attend and charitable contributions where I would prefer to choose my own charities. My fees have gone up steadily so that I am paying $1000 dollars a year to an organization that I am repulsed by. If the unions are so certain that they are needed and well-loved by their members, then why should they be so worried about a right-to-work law?  If they do such a great job and most employees support the union’s positions, then they shouldn’t be concerned about possibly losing a few ‘complainers’ like me from their rolls. You’d think they might even jump at the chance to get rid of those of us who don’t wish to conform. Perhaps they know that they would lose many more?  It’s time for CT to allow workers to make their own choice.

posted by: shinningstars122 | August 19, 2014  5:50am


@StopThink are you the teacher from Mrs. Bates’s piece that does not want tenure too?

You focus on all the negatives , in your opinion, of being a state union worker but clearly you must also enjoy the benefits and that is why you stay employed as a union worker.

If the state and nation embraces right to work and the SCOTUS makes collective bargaining illegal well guess what you won’t have to pay for those pizza parties anymore but your current position, and seniority could disappear over night.

You could be offered the same position, or not, at a much lower pay, with completely different benefits and if you earned a pension that would surely be in doubt.

Workers pay, after adjusting for cost of living is 3-5 % less than states without RTW.

Also the data suggests that RTW states have higher rates of uninsured workers, as well as poverty, which is a another form of corporate welfare. RTW removes this cost off the books of business and places back in the laps of tax payers.

Basically RTW is a special interest driven by big business and the plutocracy.

It will lower the bar plain and simple for all workers and once it occurred it would takes years or even decades to reverse the negative effects for the middle class.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | August 21, 2014  10:42pm

Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and bruised itself. We have been enjoined by the courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, traduced by the press, frowned upon in public opinion, and deceived by politicians. ‘But notwithstanding all this and all these, labor is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known, and its historic mission is as certain of ultimate realization as is the setting of the sun.
Eugene V. Debs

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