The Origins of the “Right-to-Work” Union-Busting Law

By Fred Goldstein

December 17, 2012

The passage of the union-busting so-called “right-to-work” law in Michigan is a severe legal setback for the labor movement and for the workers, the oppressed and all the progressive masses in the state. If not turned around, it will encourage right-wing, anti-labor forces across the country.

It must be emphasized at the outset that so far this is purely a legislative setback. It has not been implemented. The working class has not been defeated in the class struggle but rather the labor leadership was politically outmaneuvered by a cabal of right-wing billionaires and their political puppets in the legislature and the governor’s mansion. These forces conspired to put this reactionary legislation on the fast track without even giving the legally required time and processes for the masses to mobilize against it.

The worst thing that the labor movement could do now is to accept this reactionary legislation as a fait accompli and look to the electoral arena in 2014 to a distant attempt to regain ground in the legislature. It would be fatal to lose the moment when the spirit of resistance to the law is on the rise.

The lesson of the failure of the Wisconsin so-called “recall” movement is that in this period, with the massive funding pouring into the electoral arena and into advertising and propaganda by the billionaire Koch brothers and their like, the labor movement is at a distinct disadvantage fighting on the electoral territory alone. To be on much more solid ground the movement must rely on its real strength, the mobilization of the workers, the community, the students and all the oppressed in the class struggle.

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