Auto transplants and the right-to-work for less
This month I have some topics I would like to discuss and make an attempt to show how they are irrevocably linked. These topics are: transplant auto manufacturers, organizing, and the so called Right-to-Work (which is more accurately called the Right-to Freeload or the Right-to-Work for less).
As some of you may know, the UAW is currently trying to organize a number of automotive transplants. These facilities are largely located in the American south. The companies involved include Nissan, Mercedes, and Volkswagen, among others. Airbus, the European based manufacturer of aircraft, is also opening a plant in Alabama.
In their home countries most of these manufacturers are not only unionized, but pay wages such that workers have a standard of living comparable to traditional American autoworkers. In these transplant factories they are paying low wages, often to “temporary” workers who have no benefits or retirement plan, and have no way to ever gain such.
This leads one to a stunning conclusion: our southern states are becoming Europe’s and Japan’s Mexico. That’s right, the uproar and gnashing of teeth by American workers over the last decades as we saw jobs stream across our southern border to plants built by American manufacturers in Mexico can now be heard by workers all over the world. Only now our own fellow citizens are the lowest common denominator when it comes to wages.
It is a perfect storm for the foreign companies; they get to build cars in a country with a stable government, which more and more takes the side of corporations over their own citizens. As an added bonus they get to set up shop in states that have been, and largely remain, hostile to organized labor. This virtually guarantees that they can keep paying low wages, with scanty benefits, indefinitely. Parts of our own country are becoming the third world to manufacturers. Unless these transplants are organized, it will only be a matter of time before no manufacturing job in the United States is paying a living wage.
This is why the UAW supports
organizers (such as Local 652’s Lena Wyeth) who work with the employees of these companies in gathering support for the UAW and to force the company to accept the union through NLRB elections or other means. Of course, this is just another reason why conservative politicians and corporate interests are so hungry for Right-to-Work laws.
Every dollar lost by unions due to these laws, under which unions are still required by law to represent the non-dues-paying freeloaders, is one less it can spend on organizing workers; or on legal challenges to employment discrimination; or on lobbying for greater safety and ergonomic protections; or on training for union representatives; or other important programs and good works too numerous to list.
So, when our Republican Governor and the rest of Dick DeVos’ henchmen tell you that Right-to-Work is about worker freedom, don’t believe it for even a second. Of course they are well aware that participation in the union has never been mandatory. You aren’t required to attend meetings, or even vote in elections. Traditionally, all you had to do to get the full benefits of the agreement the union negotiated is work in a unionized facility and pay your dues. Now you only have to do the former and not the latter. This is so patently unfair as to seem un-American.
If the Republicans and their corporate interests really are interested in “freedom” why hasn’t the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in Washington introduced legislation to amend the National Labor Relations Act? The removal of just a handful of words would make it so that only dues-paying members get the rights under collective bargaining agreements. This would create a true marketplace of ideas, where you had the choice to join the union or not, and where there would be consequences to making that choice.
If a worker thought they could do better going it alone, they would have that right. But they would not have the right to freeload on other people’s dues money and still receive the benefit of a union contract. This is a service most people should be willing pay for. Especially when they do the math and find that the difference in what union and non-union workers make for the same job is far more each year than the cost of the dues people pay.
Unions provide a great service to the working people we represent, and to society as a whole. One that is worth every penny in dues we collect. The minute that people can no longer shelter under the umbrella of security and protection that unions provide without paying for that right—and it then makes a difference in their paycheck, their benefits, and the quality of life for themselves and their families—the truth of the labor movement will be brought home to them. On that day the death of Right-to-Work and the beginning of a new and better world for all workers will be at hand.