Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

39 responses to “‘Right to Work’ Is Wrong Name for Law”

  1. Pat Crowley

    I wonder if I call up Laurie White today, and ask her if I can have all the benefits of being a Chamber of commerce member, attend all the functions, get all the legal protections, etc, but not pay to cost?

  2. Sully

    Good point, Pat. At a minumum, those that choose not to join the union in a so-called right-to-work state should be on there own in terms of pay, benefits and other collectivley bargained for tights.  

  3. leftyrite

    Obama never tires of telling us about the importance of math and science in the schools, all the while ignoring language teaching. Have you ever heard him daring American teachers and children to use their consciences and to express themselves freely?

    And yet, language has made him.

    For today’s school kid, it’s all about how kids in other places score on tests. Catch up!

    One would think that, while “there is no royal road to math,” language, which made the president’s own political fortune, is merely a freebie.

    “Right to work” in place of “union busting” is a perfect example of the manipulation of language to achieve desired ends.

    We can whine about it, but until we change our own sensitivity to language to make our own communication more effective, and until we stop using Republican coinages, like “entitlements” to describe earned benefits, like social security, we’ll keep getting used by Republicans and near-Republicans.

    They own the press, and they hammer us daily. But new arteries and capillaries can bring blood to that wound.  

  4. PinkHatLib

    Bob, don’t think of an elephant. Why are you against “rights”?

    1. PinkHatLib

      From the vote down, I’m going to assume that at least one progressive didn’t pick up on the reference to George Lakoff’s book, in which he makes the point that frames (such as “rights”) trump facts and that arguing against a frame merely reenforces it.

    2. PinkHatLib

      Hey, since I’m on the subject, how should progressives reframe the issue? I prefer calling these bills “free rider” laws.

      Funny that Bob complains here that “the press” uses the right-wing shorthand (as he does 8 times) but provides no alternative other than the “RTW for less” which doesn’t actually change the frame.

  5. DogDiesel

    Hey Pat,
    I’ll give you that one too. If they’re not in the bargaining unit then let them negotiate their own deal. If you had non-union workers negotiating for themselves working alongside unionized workers, it may raise the mediocrity level of the whole.

  6. cailin rua

     ”Arbeit Macht Frei” . . . 

    “Right To Work” . . . get right to work.  Don’t ask any questions.  Just go right to work as soon as we tell ya to and stop yer belly aching.  That’s what “Right To Work” really means. 

    This is no joke.  There isn’t much to argue about.  The neo-liberal putsch is on.  Lotsa big money behind it.  Broad, Waltons, Arnold, Democrats for Ed Reform, 50 Can, etc., etc., etc.  Teachers fired.  Municipal services privatized.  Contracts broken.  The principle of good faith rendered a sick joke. Non-profits funded by tax dodgers taking over government services. National Petroleum Radio setting the liberal nouveau agenda.  

    How many humvees does the Johnston Police Department have now?  Google pays out 500 million as the result of a sting operation financed by R I taxpayers and the only entity that can use the forfeiture money is the police.  People trampled by horses outside the Michigan State House by police working for corporate interests but funded by taxpayers.  

    And voting the Democrats in will stop any of this just because they don’t call themselves Republicans?  I suppose we should keep an open mind  until Walmart, CVS and Home Depot are in charge of our schools and we pay taxes to them. Actually, don’t we already pay taxes to them in the form of credits, medicaid and food stamps?  As Greece goes so goes the nation!  This is a global problem.  

    There won’t be any positive resolution until we recognize that what goes on in the eastern and southern hemispheres has much more than an indirect impact on what happens here.  The unbridled free market is going to send us back into the middle ages. 

  7. Barry

    Of course “right to work” labels are political spin to bolster support for union busting rules, but labelling legislation for advantage is old news (e.g. “affordable health care act, the “DREAM” bill, the “pro-life” movement, etc)  What might be noted is the recent progress anti-union legislation is making but its not an accident, its the result of decades-long relentless bashing of unions, little answered by union leaders who it seems had comfortable jobs and high pay and did little to counter the anti-union rhetoric or much involve the rank and file in setting policy. 

  8. platoscave

    Being forced to join a unspaces coercive speech, plain and simple. But the union apparatchiks like Mr. Crowley would rather die than admit that reality.

  9. platoscave

    Being forced to join a union is coercive speech, plain and simple. But the union apparatchiks like Mr. Crowley would rather die than admit that reality.

  10. Jonathan Jacobs

    Right to Work should be called Left Behind. What it does is incentivize employees to ride the coattails of deep rooted organizations who negotiate for the best interests of the middle class worker without contributing a small percentage toward the greater good. However, when dues are not paid, influence can not be afforded in comparison with the fat cat, corporate lobbyists who push for the disenfranchisement of the average worker. The union is busted and everyone except the CEO suffers. It is no mystery that the decline of middle class income corresponds almost exactly with the decline in national union membership.

  11. jasonpbecker

    I wish we had a Right to Quit. Where are the folks advocating to make sure that quitting is a real option for folks who feel exploited? I’m talking a strong safety net so that it’s not devastating to leave employment.

    The major problem with all of these contracts is that the cost of termination or existing that contract is far higher for workers than it is for employers, particularly in a less-than-full-employment economy.

    Right to Work? Fine. You want to advocate for increased liberty? Fine. Why aren’t you standing up for my right to quit? 

    1. jgardner

      “I’m talking a strong safety net so that it’s not devastating to leave employment.”

      What do you consider “not devastating”?

      1. jasonpbecker

        Health, food, and housing security, minimally.

        1. jgardner

          So what does that mean? That if they choose to leave their job those things you listed would be covered at 100%?

          And isn’t the point of a safety net to catch someone who’s fallen, not someone who’s jumped?

          1. jasonpbecker

            I had a long write up and then realized it was better just to send you to this page to think about why this may be desirable.


            It’s not about people “jumping”. It is about recognizing that exploitation in return for slightly-better-than-destitute conditions v. destitution is not a real choice and is inherently coercive. If the justification behind so-called “right-to-work” is that these practices are coercive and violate individual rights, certainly those same people should be fighting against the far more coercive act of forcing exploitative labor conditions on members of a wealthy, post-scarcity society.

            1. PinkHatLib

              “Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.”
              – Emma Goldman

    2. Jonathan Jacobs

      Jason, you have a right to quit. However, voluntary quit, as laid out by RI Labor Law 28-44-17 states that voluntary leaving with good cause forces the burden of proof on the claimant to show that the work environment was made unacceptable by unsafe, harassing or otherwise unacceptable working conditions. Following an adjudication process in which you, as the claimant, can prove any of these circumstances made the workplace unsuitable through no fault of your own, you will be awarded unemployment insurance dating back to the week of initial filing of the claim.

      1. jasonpbecker


        Thanks for your response but that misses the point. I have the right to leave one job with a short-term stopgap between jobs. But if I am a member of the low-skill workforce, especially in a less-than-full-employment economy, all of the positions available to me may very well be exploitative. Again, think about the sweatshop-heavy workforce where there are few labor laws and there are “stronger individual rights” in the workplace.

        Not to mention that the burden of proof in our current unemployment laws is completely different than the one that a strong, individual-rights approach would demand. If it is coercive to force me to work under contract conditions that, were it not for the fact that the alternative is destitution, I would never submit to, then there is no burden to show that these conditions are “unacceptable”. Unacceptable, is by definition, preference-based. The whole point of a right to contract is the ability to match my personal preferences and freely enter these agreements without interferences. A threat of destitution, I would argue, is, itself, a coercive force just as the state can be.

        Placing the burden to prove some externally agreed upon standard for the workplace is not met on the worker is not enough. Most of the reasons why a voluntary exit could qualify someone for unemployment are incredibly challenging to prove in court and require substantial resources. Asking someone, who for the sake of this discussion, is at risk of destitution to spend resources to go up against a far more equipped employer is not an act of balance.

        Removing our ability to only enter into contracts that we freely choose and coercing us to enter contracts that meet a state defined standard of acceptable work place is no less a violation of individual rights than the state coercing us to enter a contract that requires paying dues to a collective bargaining unit.

        On the basis of contract/individual rights alone, it’s unclear to me that you could distinguish between these two requirements.

  12. Solomon

    As I read some of these long, well intentioned and well written articles I start to think about the fact that almost every dues paying, union worker out there is a slave to at least one more master than I am (as an independent small business person). For the luxury and blessing of freedom I do pay a cost, but I don’t pay any union dues, another tax burden tallied by someone who is looking out for my best interests but needs my hard earned money to keep up the fight.
    It may be true that workers need to be organized to collectively bargain for the best deal they can get. The Teamsters work hard to help drivers at UPS earn a fair wage for their work. But Public Employee Unions (Teachers, Police, Fire, Maintenance, etc.)… now this is where all the abuse really happens. Weak, career politicians give away the peoples hard earned tax dollars via outrageous contracts (to corrupt union bosses) with ridiculous provisions for pensions, time off, vacation carry overs, COLAs, etc. and then expect the tax payers to just roll over and pay. The people have spoken in MI. Maybe RI is next.
    As I’ve said before, when the rank and file realize that their is no money to pay them their pensions those bosses will be tarred and feathered if they can be extradited from Florida, the Cayman Islands, Paris, etc.

    1. Jonathan Jacobs

      Solomon, how misguided and prejudiced you are against public sector workers. If it benefits private sector workers in order to further the capitalist empire, it’s bona fide. But if it’s public sector workers who provide necessary services to the common good for those in need of essential services and earned entitlements, crucify them. After all, all teachers are corrupt. All firefighters are overpaid and all social service providers are just in it to get rich off the taxes they, themselves pay. Heaven forbid your house catches fire and you are  saved at the last minute by a firefighter. Should you be presented with a bill? If you are injured and disabled by said incident, should you not receive any TDI or SSDI? Who would be there to aid in these services. Just the selfish, union fat cats who are making a vast, lower middle-class income and hoping for undeserved security from the real taxpayers. After all, they don’t pay any income taxes themselves right?

      I’m an executive board member of a public sector union representing a timely and necessary social entitlement program. I’m certainly not a slave. My grandfather was a negotiator with the steelworkers union who helped negotiate the original AFL-CIO contracts and actually consulted with Caesar Chavez to establish the migrant farmworkers union. My mother was a teacher and my father a state worker before me. I have met many union leaders and acted as a political organizer for many current local and national politicians and I have yet to see the corruption of which you speak and toss baseless accusations.

      I applaud your success. Perhaps you should consider doing the same for views other than yours. Views and actions that afforded many the position you and others are able to enjoy in this country today.     

  13. leftyrite

    Who can doubt that Gina would lend a sympathetic ear to union busting in Rhode Island, either now or as governor?

    That’s her appeal, reinforced at every turn by the local media monopoly.


    1. PinkHatLib

      You obviously don’t know much about Raimondo’s story. The idea that she now hates the union jobs that sent her to college is either uniformed or a cynical political ploy. Her father lost his job and had his pension sharply reduced when the Bulova watch factory closed it’s doors.  That event certainly has framed her sense of duty in this case.
      “You can’t let people think that something’s going to be there if it’s not,” Ms. Raimondo said in an interview in her office in the pillared Statehouse, atop a hill in Providence. No one should be blindsided, she said. If pensions are in trouble, it’s better to deliver the news and give people time to make other plans.

      1. Rhody Towny

        “Don’t worry.  I’m going to hurt you.  But it’s for your own good.  I promise.”

  14. janlodonnell

    Pink Hat Lib, I heard Ms. Raimondo’s story at one of her presentations.  In fact, initially I believed her to be sincere, and I listened as the audience spoke to her and offered support.  She spoke to us about shared responsiblity and we thought we could resolve this issue working together.  She offered no details to us at that time (sort of like Romeny’s strategy) and then she blindsided the state workers and the teachers by dismissing any suggestions put forth by the leadership that represented us.  She then aligned herself with the secretive EngageRI PAC, an organization which demonized us and at that point she lost our trust.  We feel as though we have been used as pawns in her path to power.  You can defend her forever, but that is not going to change the feelings of the decent people that she and the legislators betrayed.  There were ways to a pension reform that would have been less detrimental to the recipients and at the same time beneficial to the taxpayers.

    The bottom line is she worked against us and not with us.  The recent revleation about the Texan billionaire further highlights her lack of transparency and integrity when dealing with the public sector in this state.  Finally, PHL, I had no time to make other plans!  How do you make other plans when you are retired and out of the workforce.  You made a plan when you paid your 9.5% into a fund with the promise of security in your retirement.  Trust me, I would have made other plans if I had known that this would happen and if she had been more forthcoming in her presentations to the public.  You can’t spin this.
    Happy Holidays!

    1. DogDiesel

      Blind sided? She took her plan on a road show. How is that blind sided. Your union spent good money after bad trying to get the right people into the GA and oppose the plan. They betrayed you. 
      “Finally, PHL, I had no time to make other plans!  How do you make other plans when you are retired and out of the workforce.  You made a plan when you paid your 9.5% into a fund with the promise of security in your retirement.”
      Tell that to the private sector taxpayers whose 401K’s were crushed by the economy. If your plan was dependent solely on your pension and COLA then that’s poor planning on your part. Ask the Central Falls retirees if they would have been happy just loosing their COLA’s. 

    2. PinkHatLib

      I certainly understand and am concerned for folks, especially those near retirement (my mother is a retired teacher from another state). But the pension system has been underfunded for quite some time. My recollection from the past 8 years that I’ve been here is that most knew or should have known something had to change.

      There’s quite a bit of blame to go around. But I think shooting the messeger, especially one that has the such potential for progressives is misguided.

      1. Rhody Towny

        But she is not a progressive.

        A progressive doesn’t take awards from the racist and super-right-atlas-shrugged Manhattan Institute.
        A progressive doesn’t seek praise from right wing media outlets.
        A progressive doesn’t seek anonymous Houston Texas Enron Oil Billionaire funding for their goals.
        A progressive doesn’t pump their fist in victory over hurting retirees.
        A progressive doesn’t sit on a board that allocates public money to their former corporation
        A progressive doesn’t vindictively use Texas billionaire money to flush people in their own party who voted against an anti-pension bill out of office.

        These are not progressive values.

        They’re Wall Street Libertarian values.

        Nothing she has done differentiates her from a Wall Street libertarian.  She offers the middle class in this state nothing but lip service and platitudes as she hob-nobs with the financiers and uses their cash to implement a right-wing agenda and advance her career.

        I think it matters.  I think what she does matters.  You can’t just call yourself a progressive then act like a libertarian.  It’s actions that count.

        And her actions are as right wing as they come.

        1. jgardner

          What is a “Wall St. libertarian”?

          1. Rhody Towny

            Someone who uses Ayn Rand to justify the salaries in finance.

            You know, about half of the Cato and Reason boards of directors. 

        2. PinkHatLib

          Guilt by association… case closed, eh? Some of that is tone deaf, but it’s hardly libertarianism. Me, I’m willing to at least see her platform first before damning her as the second coming of Ayn Rand.

          Out of curiousity, is Martin O’Malley (Governor of MD and former award recipitent from the Manhattan Institute) also not a progressive?

          1. Rhody Towny

            She even has a page on Right Wing Watch and in a video talks about how it’s worth looking up a list of state property to see what can be privatized.


            It’s not just one thing.  It’s her whole term in office added together.  
            I voted for her too.

            But I never will again.  
            Not after how she has acted.

            And actively seeking outside money is different than guilt by association.

            It’s guilt by action. 

            1. PinkHatLib

              I don’t agree with her on that, but that’s hardly a damning indictment of her politics in their entirety. btw, you better not vote for Taveras either. He’s previously suggest privatizing the RWP Zoo (also a bad idea). Clearly because he secretly is an Ayn Rand acolyte.

              1. Rhody Towny

                But Taveras did sit down and talk with unions.  He didn’t just steamroll them with an out-of-state billionaire dark money group.  He shouldn’t get a free pass either.  Nobody should.  

                But it’s not like I’m taking one incident and blowing it out of proportion here.  Taveras has gone back and forth.  Gina has been consistently very, very right wing.  And she won’t even compromise a little bit.  And she has not done one left wing thing to my knowledge since entering the treasurer’s office, besides ‘partnering’ with the capital good fund (which makes 18% interest off poor folk, but that’s another story…)  

          2. Rhody Towny

            Actually Pinkhat,

            Let me ask two questions directly:

            1) What would she have to do to convince you she doesn’t have progressive values?
            2) What has she done to convince you that she is a progressive?

            I gave you a list of reasons why she doesn’t fit the bill for me.

            What would it take for you? 

            1. PinkHatLib

              What would she have to do to convince you she doesn’t have progressive values?

              Doing something one thinks is necessary is not the same as doing it purposefully to support an agenda. Perhaps a bad example but I recently had a cat euthanized. Believe it or not it wasn’t because I hate cats. I’m willing to see her explain how she’d govern as an executive.

              What has she done to convince you that she is a progressive?
              Her longtime advocacy for the homeless comes to mind. She’s also on the record with progressive positions on any number of issues. I’m not in total agreement with her, but there’s much there.

              1. Rhody Towny

                Everything in that link was regressive, save for her support for gay marriage.

                And I’m not sure what she has done for the homeless, other than sit on the board of directors at Crossroads.  Brendan Dohrety’s a director too.  Does that make him progressive? 

                It’s not just that the pension bill went through.  That’s not what I’m on about.  It’s how she handled it.

                It’s the dark money groups with Texas billionaires.  It’s giving out the chance to win an iPad to Brown students to fill the statehouse with “supporters.”  It’s the ethics commission blind trust set up so Point Judith Capital could get public money funded to it.  It’s the fist pumping.  It’s the way EngageRI tried to take down Spencer Dickerson.  It’s the right wing media coverage, and the way she lets herself be used by it.  It’s going on the record and saying privatization’s a good thing.

                Maybe you don’t see it. 

                But it’s not progressive.  It’s libertarian.

                Economically regressive, and socially liberal.

                Even David Koch is pro gay marriage.

                That’s not enough.

  15. leftyrite

    Engage. Enron.

    Engage in believing that the same people: Rubin at Citi; Clinton with Glass-Steagall; Geithner, with Wall Street and the fed; Obama, with his more efficient messaging of Bush policies, which, in effect, are the ongoing Washington imperial policies; Gina Raimondo, with what should a scandalous connection to not dirty, but filthy money.

    How about disengage?

    Disengage, first and foremost, from the continuing corporate takeover of our governments at all levels. Not rhetorical anymore, sad to say.

    Disengage from helping billionaires with their agendas.

    Look at what they tolerate.

    Four years after the financial disaster, it has become clear that the public sector is a “luxury” that our elites cannot afford, that their monies were never invested effectively and efficiently in their complete behalf, and that they are now being pilloried for insisting that they have rights.

    And that we see almost no prosecutions of the financial perpetrators. In other words, very little justice.

    We all know that times have changed drastically. So, let’s negotiate settlements that feel somewhat fair and honest.



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