Thursday, December 13, 2012

Social Class and Right to Work Laws

Unfortunately, Michigan's legislative body passed the Right to Work bill and it was signed into law by the Governor.  Instead of looking at this on the surface, people must look beyond the political rhetoric.  Right to work laws weaken unions, which also mean that collective bargaining is also weakened.  Collective bargaining has been tied to better wages, better healthcare, domestic partner benefits, regular and fair raises, etc.  When workers are not required to pay into the union, but reap the benefits of the union, the available funding for the unions to bargain and fight unfair labor practices will ultimately decrease.  The strength of the unions (based on the number of members) is decreased.  The people who are disproportionately impacted by these laws are the following:
  • Socially/politically disadvantaged Americans
  • Ethnic minorities
  • The “have nots”
In other words, these Americans will be put in the position of having even lower wages, less raises (even cost of living adjustments), fewer benefits, etc.  In a time when cost of living is increasing and state legislative bodies are proposing legislation to decertify unions that don’t have a certain percentage of membership, socially disadvantaged Americans are at a great risk.

There is a sociological/criminological theory called Conflict Theory.  Its basic premise is that laws are written on behalf of the “haves,” in order to control the “have nots.”  We must ask ourselves if Right to Work laws are created in order to allow the “haves” to keep more of their financial capital, given that strong unions threaten that very idea.  Generally speaking, unions serve the needs of the “have nots,” which is comprised of many Americans who are socially disadvantaged.  If unions are weakened, it will have a direct negative impact on these groups.  As mentioned in other posts, the socially disadvantaged are disproportionately comprised of Blacks and Latinos (though a large percentage of Whites are also in this group).  When these groups start having fewer benefits, less take-home pay (given less cost of living adjustments), unfair labor practices, it results in an increased amount of social ills in minority communities.  Again, I strongly encourage people to look beyond the rhetoric and see which groups are more likely to suffer as a result of these laws.

What do you think?  Do you believe Right to Work laws directly (or indirectly) target particular groups?


  1. That's really great information Dr. Jordan! It does seem as though the major premise of Conflict Theory definitely plays a role in this situation. The "haves" have always "had" and will continue to do so. The power, privilege, and wealth that is passed throughout each generation of the "haves" serves as a method of ensuring that their status is kept. In other words, they do whatever is necessary to ensure that their comfort zone is protected. This is similar to the theory of justice as defined by John Rawls... In short... People operate based on their comfort zone, playing ignorant to the issues that are beyond that zone, while maintaining their sense of security.

  2. Absolutely. It is interesting because not all people who believe in Right to Work laws have the intent to negatively impact others. Some are simply so focused on protecting what they have, it results in the hurting of others. My concern is to stand with those who are often silenced from the political process: the impoverished, racial/ethnic minorities, the "have nots." It's time to shed a brighter light on the injustices and advocate for parity in the country.