The Right-To-Work Battle Inches Closer To Connecticut

by Categorized: Jobs, Labor, Politics Date:

Connecticut in some ways resembles Michigan, a high-wage industrial state with about the same proportion of union membership as of 2011 — 17.7 percent here, 18.3 percent there, compared with 11.8 percent for the nation.

A year ago, few people thought the heart of the United Auto Workers would become the nation’s 24th right-to-work state. But it’s now all but done, awaiting the governor’s signature.

 The shocking turnaround from union hotbed to anti-labor bastion followed a similar move by neighboring Indiana last February, and an ill-fated effort by Michigan’s labor activists to boost their power in an Election Day referendum.

Can it happen in Connecticut?  The short answer is not anytime soon because no Democrat-controlled state legislature would ever consider it in this era.

The map of Right to Work states closely resembles the red-state blue-state map of elections. Credit: Chuck Eckenstahler’s Blog

Michigan, despite its status as a blue state in recent elections, has a GOP governor and legislature, and outside, right-wing influences have made strong inroads there according to the Detroit Free Press.

But make no mistake: Just as the South moved from Democratic to Republican in the Reagan era, and stayed that way, the anti-union backlash represented by the right-to-work movement can creep into the blue states over time. Look at the map and think about Ohio, then Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire to the north.

Right-to-work laws, presented as common sense by their anti-union supporters, allow any worker to choose whether he or she will be a dues-paying member of a union.  The bare majority of states are so-called closed-shop states, in which everyone must join a union once it’s certified.

That simple distinction is a proxy for all sorts of pro-union and anti-union sentiment, and it’s the subject of an endless debate about which one is better for economic development.  Michigan blogger Chuck Eckenstahler clearly laid out the pressure on his state after Indiana made its move.

It seems clear that in recent years, growth has favored the right-to-work states. But unions and their allies argue that right-to-work laws, which certainly weaken unions, lead to lower prosperity, and not just for union workers. A rigorous 2011 study by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute showed that pay was 3.2 percent higher in closed-shop states even after eliminating the effects of higher cost, education and other factors.

That advantage, like the laws themselves, can change over time if enough jobs migrate to lower-cost, anti-union states.  Connecticut, arguably the bluest state, will be among the last to fall.

Underlying all of this is a war over wages, with many fronts.  Over the last generation, work has been devalued in favor of capital and ideas, which is good for technology development but has tended to divide and shrink the middle class — to everyone’s peril.

At the same time, there’s been a backlash against real and perceived corruption by union leadership, and against real and perceived excess in public employee union benefits. That’s feeding the right-to-work movement, just as the backlash against corporate boardroom and hedge-fund excesses fed the Dodd-Frank reforms and the re-election of Obama.

Unions in Connecticut need to be wary of that backlash, and temper their actions accordingly — much as they’d like to right the wrongs of an economy that has left the working person behind.

What the union movement needs is stronger and faster enforcement of existing collective bargaining laws by the National Labor Relations Board. That would help end the state divide that allows corporations to play one state against another, as they also do with economic development aid, to no one’s benefit.

And the state-by-state battle will move closer to the Northeast. Guess what heavily unionized state, with a Republican governor and legislature, is suddenly the nation’s labor battleground?  Yup, Ohio, the Connecticut Western Reserve.

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37 thoughts on “The Right-To-Work Battle Inches Closer To Connecticut

  1. Jimmy boggs

    It won’t happen here – if the unions take a more measured approach to bargaining. If they feel that they can demand and strike at will, they will be fooling themselves. I am pro union but I also am a tax payer and I will not support unions supporting greater benefits then we can afford – whatever that threshold is.

  2. Dan Haar Post author

    That’s a sensible comment, which, you may have noticed, I incorporated into the column — or put another way, brazenly stole. So, thanks very much.

  3. Jimmy Boggs

    I have a friend who is retired from the state. He is pure anti tax pro Tea party. Yet, he benefits handsomely from the pension that he received and the medical that he utilizes at will.

    The irony or ironies.

    And thanks Dan. We all borrow from each other.

  4. A Sad Day for Connecticut

    One thing is certain, as long the government of Connecticut is controlled by the unions, and don’t kid yourself, it is – Connecticut will never attract businesses who are seeking to relocate, unless they are bought off with incentives we cannot continue to afford to pay. The unfriendly business envionment that exists here has been accelerated under Governor Malloy and the Democratic controlled legislature. Connecticut is business UNFRIENDLY.

    1. Jimmy Boggs

      A Sad Day; But our governor has already attracted a world class medical research center to the John Dempsey medial complex. It will attract many dozens if not hundreds of researchers. That in turn will create demand for housing, consumer purchases and guess what, Sad Day, any advances in medicine made here will be made known world wide.

      Sorry to shoot down your observations. But it doesn’t hurt to be fair if you feel fairness is important for you.

      1. old capitalist

        Thats great news jimmy, in the meantime, when you are sending out your Christmas cards make sure you have the right addresses when sending anyone at Yardney Techincal Products, Northrup Grumman ,WE Bassett Company, RR Donnelly, Amerbelle Textiles, the 400 or so laid-off people at Aetna, the ex 100 AT&T employees, the downsized 300 workers at UTC/PW and the off-shored 75 former Perkin Elmer employees, among many others.

        ….just to be fair, jimmy

  5. old capitalist

    Quit being delusional, manufacturing in CT is dying. Crushed by a combination of high energy, high taxes and a non-right-to-work status the state has no chance of competing in a now global workplace. The 160K or so CT mfg. employees (far outnumbered by government workers) will continue to whittle down as we stand no chance of attracting anyone new (unless we give away the store) and the remaining corporate producers either expand elsewhere, sell off (see todays UTC news)or cut back (sequestration). When the manufacturing is gone the professional services will soon follow. CT will then be left with a shrinking financial services sector and lower paying retail and food service sectors (many minimum paying jobs)needing to support the growing government, health and education sectors

    This is alrady occurring, witness the growing unemployment gap. You do not need me to point out that the states doing economically better are those with lower taxes and right-to-work status, while states like California, Illinois and the bulk of the Northeast, inevitably will soon be choking on their unsustainable spending and unsurmountable debt.

    Do any of you see a problem with this?

    1. Mike Robinson

      Pratt & Whitney at one time employed 8,000 workers in Florida. In 1999 P&W moved its entire military jet engine business from “right to work” Florida to Connecticut. Thousands of jobs moved to Connecticut despite so-called “anti-business” policies in CT. Pratt & Whitney now employs only 1,000 people in Florida, and 11,000 people in Connecticut.

      Low-tech simple manufacturing has been leaving CT and the USA for decades. Nothing new here. They were low-paying jobs. The high-tech high value-added technologies remain here along with the good high-paying jobs for our experienced workforce. The brains, our scientists and engineers, are also still here developing future tech.

      Predictions of “unsustainable spending and unsurmountable debt” are speculation. Policies can be changed. Many of the problems you cite do exist, but they don’t necessarily lead to your conclusions.

          1. old capitalist

            Hey Mike, I just read the link in Nick’s post. What happened to the other 9,000 jobs that the article states PW used to employ in CT during the sixties?

        1. Mike Robinson

          old capitalist, I don’t have P&W employment statistics back to 1960. Many things have happened over the years.

          I’ll take your number of 9,000 jobs and use that. Florida went from 8,000 down to 1,000 for 87% loss of jobs. Connecticut went from 20,000 down to 11,000 for only a 45% loss in jobs, half as much as “right to work” Florida.

          Furthermore, the transfer of thousands of jobs from Florida to Connecticut happened at a time where Connecticut had a 5% income tax and Florida had zero income tax and P&W still decided to move to Connecticut!

          1. old capitalist

            Yes Mike, many things have happened over the years.

            Know I know that while PW reduced its Florida workforce by 7,000, they have reduced their CT workforce by 9,000.

            I wonder where the bulk of those net 16,000 job reduction were transferred to?

        2. Jimmy Boggs

          Let me explain something to you here. The right to work movement is nothing more then a desire to choke off support for a political party that supports the middle income and low income strata against the neglect of traditional Republican regressive economic policies. Let’s see what could happen if a union decided to cease existing. That would signify the end of worker protection.

          But I guess you wouldn’t mind.

        3. Greg Mattus

          Nick, Cheshire is closed and the work moved out of state and country.

          Dan, If you drop State City and Town Union workers from your formula for both states, what would the percentages then be? Would you change your story?

      1. old capitalist

        I hope you are right, but I have one irrefutable conclusion that is fact (stubborn thing), Connecticut manufacturing employment is down over 35% from a dozen years ago. I remember a comment made by a UTC executive (P&W; Sikorsky) stating “anywhere but CT” (goodby to new Goodrich). I do not know what happened to Norden Systems but I remember driving past its offices next to I-95 and seeing an empty parking lot that used to be filled with thousands of cars.

        Also, I would respectfully disagree with you that unsustainable spending and unsurmountable debt re. California, Illinois, Rhode island is mere speculation. It looks like our state’s trial is about to begin.

  6. Josh Michtom

    Right-to-work laws don’t simply “allow any worker to choose whether he or she will be a dues-paying member,” as you say. They insert the government in the contractual negotiations between employers and workers, and prohibit the workers from negotiating a benefit that employers have, in the past, been willing to give in order to secure a reliable workforce. A union contract is really just a deal between two economic actors, in which the workers promise to show up every day and the employer promises only to hire union members. Proponents of the free market should oppose right-to-work legislation. Presumably, if union contracts hamper employment too much, businesses will always fail when workers unionize, and workers will act in their own rational self-interest and stop organizing.

    1. Da Troof

      Huh? You must be a union attorney.

      We all know the cozy little relationship between Democrats and their union masters. To ignore this is to ignore reality. People are tired of unions pushing states to the brink of bankruptcy with unsustainable wages and benefits. How about some rights for the taxpayer mules who support state Governments?

      Take a look in the mirror. Unions are now, what, 7% of the workforce? You served a useful purpose in the past but you are fast becoming irrelevant. Even your thugs and goons aren’t getting it done anymore.

    2. old capitalist

      Josh,

      Help me to understand how unions-employers exempt themselves from government insertions that apply to the millions of workers and employees in non-union organizations/industries.

      I think you have overly simplified what a union contract is. Some of the contracts I’ve seen are thicker than a book with pages of fine print conditions, some which are very detrimental to a employer needing to become more efficent in order to survive/compete in todays marketplace.

      When it was just the U.S. after WWII able to
      manufacture goods, employers were more than willing, now with the whole world competing this is no longer the case (Krauthammer speaks eloquently on this) even in the U.S. notice how not one transplant auto company has set-up shop in a RTW state even though
      there are/were reliable workforce in place.

      Most of the dues collected do not directly
      benefit workers but are used for other purposes and add a layer of cost that given the choice, consumers reject.

      As for a reality check on your last sentence,
      check the current employment figures for unionized auto, steel, clothing and many other indutries with the figures from a decade or two ago.

      Peace

      1. Jimmy Boggs

        Old Capitalist: Could you rewrite so that I may make a little sense of what you wrote. Or do you think like you write and in that case, better leave it alone.

  7. Roger Nadeau

    Its saddening that there are so many uneducated negative comments about unions. It has been ashame that the real history and reason for unions is not being taught in our schools. Unions were created by working groups of men and women who were tired of slave wages, deadly toxic work environments, watching their fellow worker being maimed or killed because they were forced to work until exhaustion. They were tired of being paid crumbs and seeing the Rockefellers of the world living their opulent lifestyles while they shivered in their dank work houses chained to workbenches next to their piss buckets.
    People open your blindered eyes history is repeating itself. The degradation of unions is sadly reverting us back to these conditions. Its all around us today the disparity of wealth is incredible as it was in the early days of unions.
    The real reason fat cat corporations strip away American jobs is they move the work to countries where they can exploit working men women and CHILDREN pollute the rivers and land with no consequences from EPA agencies that are nonexistent.
    Every worker around the world benefits from unions, they set the bar for living wages and working conditions for all. Do you think the company you work for owes you the wages and benefits you get such as a 40 hour work week, overtime for weekends, vacation time, safe work environments is just given to you because they like you?
    Please read and reply to all especially DAN HAAR
    And Dan don’t delte this one this the real truth about unions and you know it.

    1. Nick

      Come off the union propaganda Roger. There is no disparity of wealth today any more than there was during the union’s heyday. If anything, its lower. In 1922, Top 1% had 36% of the wealth, in 2007… they had 34%. In 1976, it was 20%, the lowest in 100 years. The number fluctuates depending on recessions, but it hasnt changed much.

      And Im tired of hearing union propagandists whine about “exploiting women and children” in foreign countries”. These people have extreme REAL poverty there (unlike here) and while they get so-called “slave wages” of $2 per hour (yeah, for us here)…its middle class wages there. They go on protests demanding MORE hours. Why do Americans want to dictate how much wealth other citizens in other countries can earn? NO ONE is forced to work for these factories or companies… they CHOOSE to.

      The lies and myths from unions is mainly the reason for the common misconceptions out there today, unions did NOT give us 40 hour weeks, weekends off, 8 hour days, benefits and paid vacations. These were all in place well before unions came about in America. Child labor was effectively ended during the Great Depression when adults would take the jobs only taken by children before. 8 hour days and 40 hour weeks were also implemented during the Great Depression to lower unemployment, it was called a Shared Workplace. Benefits were put into place by private businesses to ENTICE good workers to come work for them, to RETAIN workers. This is all public information on Wiki.

      The notion that we can ONLY work 40 hours a week 8 hours a day is a joke. Most small busineses and even large corporations have workers that work more than 5 days or 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. Small business owners usually work 12-14 hour days, CEO’s routinely work 70 hours a week… but supposedly we’re supposed to “thank” unions for the 40 hour work week and weekends off?

    2. old capitalist

      Sad indeed Roger, but it hasn’t stopped you or your fellow citizens from buying foreign cars, electronics, clothing and whatever is being sold by Walmart now has it?

  8. Roger Nadeau

    sadly Nick you hide behind a pathetic mask… we all would be making $2 a day if the companies we work for had their way. And you would live in factory dormitories sharing our beds with the next rotation of workers.Just like the Apple factories in China where they have to install suicide nets around their buildings. Shh don’t mention the last group of workers burned to death in the garment factory behind chained doors.

  9. fair economy

    Thank you Dan for this well-reasoned, balanced contribution. We’ve become so divided, so caught up in the ideology and rhetoric, so individualistic and unconcerned for the well-being of our neighbors and fellow humans that we fail to see the big picture of our economic interdependence. In fact we can’t even see the plain facts. One such fact being: there are substantial pay discrepancies between right-to-work and non-right-to-work states. And this is harmful not only for the workers themselves. When workers are paid less and have fewer benefits, it hurts us all. Not only because low-wage workers are more likely to rely on publicly-funded programs like Food Stamps and medicaid to make up the difference, but because they are less able to contribute to the economy as consumers of goods and services, which weakens businesses and leads to less job growth. We need to realize we’re in this together -divide and conquer only benefits the very few at the very top. It’s time to put the partisanship and the ideology aside and start working on common solutions.

    1. old capitalist

      Total nonsense, recheck your facts and you will find the highest percentage of people on public assistance are in California. Add in the vast majority of cities in northern states that are non RTW and I am sure it will make up a large percentage of the total.
      While I think that the reasons for this are due to a number of factors unrelated to RTW,
      (illegal immigration, etc.) it still refutes your assertion.

      As to your pay discrepancies, which when camparing apples to apples is not as substantial (3.2% according to Mr Haar) as you make it out to be, they are more than offset by the lower cost of living in RTW states. This has been repeated to me by almost everyone I know who has transferred here from other areas.

      As to your concerns regarding the well being of your neighbors and fellow humans, please see my response to Mr Nadeau above.

  10. America Is Dying

    Youkilis, Yankees Reach $12M Deal.
    Fiscal Cliff? Where? Millions available for Pro Athletes all across America. Billions available for wars all across the world.

    1. old capitalist

      Hey, maybe if jimmie’s hope for redistribution occurs we might all afford to take our families to a baseball game without blowing the monthly budget…oops, I forgot…them are union jobs.

      Meanwhile, back in the nutmeg state, millions of tax credits are doled out to movie companies whose owners are worth hundreds of millions and whose stars are paid tens of millions for a single picture.

      ” We are all equal, but some are more equal than others”
      – Orwell

  11. Jimmy Boggs

    Common Sense…Nick the Trick…Kimmerian… Old Capitalist

    Roger, Dan doesn’t delete no need to blame him.

    Every movement has its cycle and maturity stage. Unions were organized to oppose the brutality of the industrial age and the lazzie faire capitalists. Many protective laws were enacted to protect those who labored and were viciously exploited in the factories.

    There is no less need for unions today. In fact, unions should truly internationalize instead of in name only. Chinese should have unions along with other countries and organize across the globe with American and European nations.

    There is a need, though, for unions to recognize the challenges of today and be more cooperative and less confrontational.

    I recognize this point. I also recognize the need to redistribute the wealth in this country. The wealth has shifted from a once expanding middle income to the super wealthy. It is no mystery why this slow shift has occurred. Special interests have influenced Congress through the decades. The first item on the agenda of a Corporate raider is to strip the pension of a company.

    Enough for me for now.

    Ravi Shankar lives.

  12. Fred Young

    Having worked in a union shop, it always bothered me that I could not have the job without mandatory union membership & dues. The union hierarchy are more nepotistic than management would ever be allowed to be. Dues would be used for purposes that many dues paying members would not support. Ever see a union dues increase vote fail? Me neither, they hand you a ballot & pencil, then after voting of course you chat with your co workers who claim to have voted against it too, but the following week the “official” tally reveals overwhelming support. Bring a pen to cast your vote & the union peoples eyes practically cut through you, probably have a clause eliminating anything but votes cast in pencil anyway. How about last years CT union vote on concessions failing? The bosses changed the vote requirements to pass it anyhow. Stop forcing people to join a union to have a job, the saved dues will be spent in the community & used to support members [not union bosses] interests.

    1. Jimmy Boggs

      Good point if it is valid. This is why unions must get real and get honest. But not be disbanded like the right to work movement would have them. Fix the dam organization don’t throw it out.

  13. Huh

    What does this guy mean when he says that no one benefits when businesses play one state off of another. Lots of people benefit from that – it’s called competition and is the bedrock of American capitalism and consumerism. If a state is a high-tax state with pro-union laws that require workers to join a uniona and pay dues to it whether they like it or not, companies can move to a right-to-work state. Who benefits? Why the government, taxpayers and job-seekers in the other state. This is ABC economics yet this reporter doesn’t get that?

    1. old capitalist

      This is what you get after years of “high esteem”, diversity over merit, everyone gets a trophy thinking. The marketplace is not a community pinic with everyone holding hands singing kumbaya and sharing tofu, but a competition (WAR) for the end consumer dollar. In this battlefield the winners are the innovative and the efficent. The reality is that most anyone purchasing a product more often than not, does not give a rodent’s butt over where it was produced or if it was union made. By and far the determining factors are the quality and the cost.

      Do not believe me? then ask yourself – how many Pacers or Gremlins, Zenith TV’s, Bowmar calculators or Kodak film have you purchased lately and do you still “look for the union label when you are buying a coat, hat or dress”.

  14. Vern

    Now all of the unions in Michigan are screaming “There will be blood!” like madmen. The Democrats should be held accountable for their union supporters now spouting anarchy!

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