One of the more popular political tactics is to give legislation a sunny or strong name, regardless of what it actually does. Most recently, this has been the case with so-called “Right to Work” legislation (which, coincidentally, has nothing to do with your right to work). Democrats have tried to coin the phrase “Right to Work for Less,” but to no avail. That idea forgets the most basic rule of bumper sticker debate: shorter is always better.
This idea of using positive terminology in legislation goes back several decades. We don’t name anything the Judiciary Act anymore. I’m sure you all remember the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” right? You’ probably know it better as the USA PATRIOT Act, which was the reactionary legislation to the 9/11 attacks.
Now that we’re finding out more and more every day about what it actually does, do you still feel like a Patriot? The powers of the Executive Branch were expanded greatly, something that supporters were fine with under Bush the Younger, but suddenly it’s overreach when used by President Obama. By the way, if you’re deemed an “enemy of the state,” you can kiss goodbye your right to be tried by a jury of your peers. You can be detained indefinitely on suspicion of terrorist activities, without being convicted of anything. If you’re scared, it’s very simple…just don’t make anyone think you’re an enemy of the state. What defines an enemy of the state isn’t exactly clear, so your best bet is just to never leave your house again. And let’s not forget that the NSA Scandal that angered so many “patriots” was technically legal under, you guessed it, the USA PATRIOT Act.
How about the No Child Left Behind Act? Who could possibly vote against a name like that? Now go ask any teacher that has suffered through this ridiculous program what they think about it. There’s the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known by most people as Obamacare. Though that’s not nearly as bad as its antithetical partner, “ObamaCare: A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health Care Law.” Seriously.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act, the Rural Rejuvenation Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Protection of Freedoms Act…and on and on. Many of these bills have riders attached that actually go against the very title of the legislation.
If I ever make it to Congress, the first bill I will author will be the “No More Titles in Legislation Act.”
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Wrong for Work legislation. This may be the last time I talk about it for a long time, even if it passes in Wisconsin, for reasons I will explain later. The major deception in this kind of law is that it is disguised as an issue about freedom. What the legislation does, in the simplest of terms, is allow workers in a traditional union job to decline to pay dues to the union. On the surface, it seems to make sense, which is why polling has always shown Americans to be in broad support. But this is where the deception comes in. Because, as you may or may not know, labor unions have actually done a lot of stuff that has directly benefited all workers. Do prefer a 40 hour work week with anything exceeding that paid as overtime, or would you like 60-70 hours to be standard with no pay difference? How about work condition requirements that keep you from getting sick or killed in your job? Unions have fought for a ton of rights for their members, which are now enjoyed by nearly all workers because the private sector needed to be able to compete.
The problem is that a few bad seeds within unions got greedy, and it came at the worst possible time. Now unions are demonized, people see them as nothing more than cash cows, and many of those people will now be given the choice of whether to pay union dues. Oh, and let’s not forget…those that pay their union dues and those that don’t within any given occupation will all equally reap the benefits negotiated by the union. Perfectly fair, amiright?
Don’t let this fool you. This legislation has one goal, and one goal only, the same goal as Wisconsin’s Act 10 (aka the “Budget Repair Bill” *gag*). Cripple the unions, and you remove pretty much all sources of funding for Democrats to compete in elections. In Act 10, one of the provisions that was eventually struck down was one that prevented union employees from being able to have their dues deducted automatically from their check. What’s the harm in allowing someone that chooses to continue paying dues from being able to do it as easily as they did it before? To me, this provision is the clearest example of the true agenda, which has nothing to do with repairing a budget. And that wasn’t the only provision to do so; there were countless others that served to do nothing but make it more difficult to stay in a union, even if you want to. How is that freedom?
If you’re not yet convinced of the dangers of Wrong for Work legislation, then perhaps this will help seal the deal. The fact that this legislation has been sweeping the country through the last decade is not by accident. It’s pure exploitation. Wait for the economy to completely tank people to be out of work, then finally going back to work saddled with debt. Then tell them you’re going to give them the “right” to keep $40 a month from their paycheck, and all they have to do is quit their union. Everyone has a threshold, and even those that love their union are forced to consider it because they’re already living paycheck-to-paycheck. Extra $40 a month sounds pretty good right now, but unfortunately it ignores the fact that long-term, they will statistically earn less money, have worse benefits, and find themselves worried about how they will ever retire in comfort.
I would love nothing more than to sit down and talk to as many people as possible about the dangers of this legislation on their rights as a worker, but I don’t see it doing much good. There’s one more key to the timing of this legislation; in Wisconsin, it now has time to fester, and Democrats will re-actively try to fight back, and they will lose because of it. And Republicans know this. This legislative idea has broad support among citizens who think it has something to do with their right to work or their freedom, and because the deceptive truth is several levels deep, it will not make it to a large majority of voters. And Democrats will lose.
Do not be sucked in by this. Either change the name through a massive marketing campaign, or largely ignore the topic. Of course, state your opinion if you’re against it. I’m not saying we should mislead people on our point of view on the topic; I’m simply stating this cannot be the focus of the 2016 campaign season for Democrats. Politically, it’s a loser. If you’re going to talk about it, I would suggest using Wrong for Work, or Left to Work, Late for Work, Right to Steal. Come on, let’s be a little more clever about this. Anything that will make people question what the legislation is actually about so that they will do the research. Otherwise, ’16 might be even harder to watch than ’14.
But, as always, in life and in unions, we have to do this together.