We have perhaps the worst labor record of any state. Even in states with similarly violent histories, like West Virginia, unions have sometimes emerged victorious. Not here. From the Marion Massacre to Cherie Berry’s malign neglect, Tar Heel workers have suffered subjugation more often than progress. Republicans want to make it worse.
This is currently the second-least unionized state in the nation. Only 3% of our workforce enjoy collective bargaining protections. Yet somehow the NCGOP thinks employers face a dire threat of runaway unionism, and want to take the radical step of putting “Right to Work” in our Constitution. This would be disastrous on many levels.
In economic terms, workers would lose out. Nine of the ten highest-wage states are non-RTW. The tenth, Virginia, rejected a RTW amendment last fall. The benefits of non-RTW status hold even after factoring out cost of living. According to the most rigorous recent analyses, RTW costs workers $1,558 dollars per year after a cost-of-living adjustment. A RTW amendment would make it illegal to erase this disadvantage.
A RTW amendment would further diminish the political power of working people. Modern progressive groups tend to focus on single causes, noble ones. But unions fight for the common good on all fronts. The NC AFL-CIO backed same-sex marriage, fought for public transportation, and has helped lead the charge for Medicaid expansion–even though Medicaid makes union contracts less necessary. Republicans would like nothing keep plutocrats on their throne. RTW would all but ensure that outcome.
Finally, this amendment would once again plunge in the dagger of disrepute. No other state–not even viciously anti-union places like South Carolina and Tenneessee–enshrines Right-to-Work in their constitution. So we would once again be trail blazers in repression. Outsiders would see our government as being uniquely, implacably hostile to their rights of its citizens. And that notion would not be without merit.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.