More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said this:
"We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right-to-work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights... Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer, and there are no civil rights."
Even then, Dr. King and other advocates for civil rights and workers' rights understood the connection between strong unions and long-term social and economic justice for America's working people.
Since their heyday in the '40s and '50s, unions have played a major role in bettering all workers' economic well-being by improving working conditions, raising safety standards in the workplace, and carving a path to the middle class. Unions gave us sick leave, the five-day workweek, and collective bargaining power that built the nation's middle class.
Today, union density has precipitously declined. This decline has correlated with stagnating wages and a shrinking middle class. Meanwhile, income inequality has worsened, the rich have gotten richer and corporate profits have soared.
This great divergence between the wealthy and the rest of us apparently isn't enough for some, though. Unions continue to face relentless attacks by corporate and wealthy special interests, such as the Koch brothers and their right-wing allies like Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who successfully ramrodded through a "right to work" law in Michigan last December.
So-called right-to-work laws have the express intent to cripple unions by allowing employees who benefit from higher wages and benefits come from collective bargaining agreements to opt out of paying union dues. The strategy is brazenly transparent: Starve unions of dues, weaken their power to stand up for workers through collective bargaining, and transfer all power to set or suppress wages to corporate bosses. States with such laws on the books have higher poverty rates and lower wages than states without such laws, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Right now, we cannot predict with absolute certainty what will happen in Michigan as a result of this law. But what we do know is that it didn't happen in a vacuum. Ramrodding through this law is one part of a broader, coordinated agenda to silence working people in the workplace, at the ballot box, in the halls of power -- you name it. Those who have plenty want even more, and they're willing to try to dupe us with false slogans such as "right-to-work" laws in order to get it. Unions are a prime target because, despite declining density, they remain one of the strongest voices for working people's interests. Weaken unions and you dampen working people's collective voice.
More than 50 years after Dr. King warned of being "fooled by false slogans" such as "right-to-work," working people are facing a string of coordinated, corporate-backed attacks -- including a push for so-called "right-to-work" laws. But what the wealthy special interests don't have behind them are numbers.
SEIU and its allies will continue to honor Dr. King's legacy of economic and social justice by joining together all working people, union and non-union, in a movement to fight against income inequality and rebuild the middle class.
You can click here or on the image below to share Dr. King's words on Facebook and spread the message that we won't be fooled by so-called right-to-work.