These laws are all wrong and they’re spreading like a virus.
Justina Cioffi is an active RN delegate at St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach, FL. She’s a member of the Union’s contract negotiating committee and participates in political events. Ask her what it’s like doing this work in Florida, a right-to-work (for less) state, and she keeps it simple: If she doesn’t, workers will lose even more of their hard-won gains.
“If we let it happen it’s going to be downhill for everything—the quality of life, health care, care for our patients,” she says. “Everything will go down the tubes. We will just be numbers.”
No Law Left Unturned
During President Obama’s administration American workers saw a marked restoration of the rights and protections that had been eroded by conservative administrations and expanding corporate power. For example, Pres. Obama appointed a worker-friendly National Labor Relations Board, passed the historic Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act and introduced and enforced broad ranging health and safety guidelines.
In an effort to protect corporate earning power, the extreme right and allies like the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushed back. They bankrolled legislative campaigns to ensure limits on worker power. A centerpiece of this crusade was the national proliferation of right-to-work laws, one statehouse at a time.
Contrary to their name, rightto- work laws are designed to yoke workers in just about every way; the laws hamstring unions, suppress wages, keep workers from sharing in profits, stifle workers’ voices on the job and more. About the only right they do provide is to work. For who and how much pay is pretty much entirely in the boss’s hands.
“What you see right off the bat with right-to-work laws are lower salaries. That goes for every industry—not just healthcare,” says Mark Criswell, a CNA at Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, FL.
War on Workers Waged From Every Front
There are currently 28 states with right-to-work (for less) laws on their books. Notable battles in Michigan and Wisconsin brought armies of protesters to state capitals as GOP controlled legislatures rammed laws through over deafening public outcry. Today, with hard right Republicans in control in much of the federal government and governorships across the country, proponents of right to work are positioned to make catastrophic inroads.
In February, H.R. 785, The National Right to Work Act, was introduced in Congress. Delegate Criswell says the best way to stop right to work from spreading is through worker education.
“We have to start the process now. It would be helpful to send workers across the country to tell each other our stories,” he says. “Literally before the Union down here, there were no increases. In South Florida corporations take advantage of workers because they’re scared. But now because we have the Union, we aren’t scared.”
Criswell notes that workers are facing several game-changing Supreme Court cases. The decisions have the potential to cripple the labor movement.
“To me it’s about corporations wanting to keep the power to themselves, and we can’t have that. Either people are in charge of the government, or the government is in charge of the people. These laws are just about taking power away from the people.”