“Right to work.” For those of you not familiar with the phrase, it’s quintessential right-wing, Orwellian doublespeak, along the lines of “Healthy Forests” (translation: Bush’s “no tree left behind” program), “Clear Skies” (translation: dirty air), “Clean Coal” (translation” the exact opposite, as it’s physically not possible to make coal “clean” in its production, processing, and consumption), “job killing” (translation: almost certainly means it’s actually job creating), “fiscally conservative” (translation: in GOP-world, that’s 99% sure to mean “budget busting” and/or “borrow and spend”), etc. In this case, “right to work” is more accurately described as “union-busting,” “anti-worker,” “right to be poor.”
Yet somehow, here in Virginia, “right to work” has become almost sacrosanct, something that both far-too-many Democrats (see here for Creigh Deeds intoning that he “always has, always will” support “right-to-work”) and almost all Republicans profess to support. It’s a truly deplorable situation. Heck, even the head of the Democratic National Committee, Tim Kaine, has said that he“strongly support[s]” Virginia’s “right-to-work law.” And Mark Warner “said he was a strong supporter of Virginia’s right-to-work law — but, then, workers should have the right to organize if they want.” Oh, and check out House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong pledging not to do anything to interfere with Virginia’s sacred “right-to-work” laws (note current DPVA chair Brian Moran sitting right next to Armstrong, not objecting one bit). Real progressive, huh?
Why am I raising the subject of “right to work” right now? Very simple: because of the assault on labor’s right to organize – and the mass protests against that assault – that’s going on in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. With regard to the Hoosier state, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels “warned his party late last year against pursuing so-called ‘right to work’ legislation,” but now is keeping very quiet as his party tries to smash labor power in Indiana via legislation promoting that very thing.
Over at the (far) right-wing Washington Examiner, Senior Political Columnist Timothy Carney argues that “right-to-work” laws are anti-conservative, as they “interfere with the right of contract and they bar certain consensual economic arrangements — specifically, they bar employers from agreeing to hire only union workers.” According to Carney, “the conservative position is that people should be able to place whatever conditions they like on those who want their property.” Which is why “right-to-work” laws are wrong, from a conservative perspective: according to Carney, “[p]reventing employers from agreeing to a closed shop is no free-market solution.”
Bottom line: when even super-conservatives like Timothy P. Carney make the case that “right-to-work” is wrong, and when even conservative Republican governors like Mitch Daniels won’t go to bat for this union-busting garbage, it really drives home how radically anti-worker and anti-organized-labor Virginia’s own “right-to-work” laws – and other laws that are unfriendly to labor – are. The fact that many leading Virginia Democrats support “right-to-work” (or don’t oppose it publicly) and brag about how “business friendly” this state is (uh, guys, how about WORKER friendly, ENVIRONMENT friendly, COMMUNITY friendly, stuff like that for a change?!?) demonstrates how far from “progressive” the Democratic Party of Virginia currently finds itself. And they wonder why there are tensions between the party and progressive activists? Duhhhhhh.