Right-To-Work… or not?

I’m pretty sure that most of us give little or no thought to the Right-To-Work premise states embrace in their employment laws.  However, as New Jersey employees, we are acutely aware of the current attack on unions and unionized workers.  As intelligent people, we understand that when wages are depressed, corporate profits rise.  And people with investments in the benefiting industries make the money we should be bringing home to our families and communities.

But clever marketing creates the perfect “We v. They” political strategy.  “We” don’t get all of those things “They” get.  Why should “we” pay for the things “they” get that we don’t, which releases the perfect answer: Let’s take all of those things away from everybody.  Let’s level the playing field.

I confess, I never really understood the impact of Right To Work until I started looking into my pursuit of portable tenure for teachers in New Jersey.   In my argument, I point out that tenure is only intended to give its possessors access to due process, not job protection or a permanent job.  Tenure and unions hold the employee of the granting entity the assurance that the reason for the job action against the employee is specifically due to job performance.

Union employees seem to get it.  Others? They seem to be under the impression that we all have that right.  And it turns out, that we don’t.

So what does that mean exactly and what’s my point?  In short, my point is that ‘right-to-work’ is a very misunderstood concept (a misconception used to expand it) and that in today’s politically charged environment, (as probably in similarly charged  past environments) can cost a worker their job because they’ve exercised their constitutional right to free speech: expressing his/her opinion in what we believe to be an open society.  In this essay, I will take you through how the right-to-work platform is being used to jeopardize our First Amendment rights.

According to Forbes Magazine (December 11, 2012),  “One of the enduring myths of legislation designed to bring ‘right-to-work’ laws to the states is the notion that these laws actually have something to do with the right to work.”  I encourage you to read the article in the link.)

[I’ve deliberately chosen to cite Forbes because as a 20 year veteran of the financial services world, and an ex-Wall Street employee, I’ve found Forbes to be one of the magazines most cited in that free-market environment.]

If you’ve read the link, you’ll understand how this notion of right-to-work actually works.

Why is this important today?

I’ve noticed that there are regular people losing their jobs everyday for simply expressing their personal opinions. I am not suggesting that I support either of these people’s positions.  But free speech in an open society means more today than it has since World War II.

Some of these people have done it at work.  Some on their personal time. I’ll let you decide for yourself if  you think these people who are simple people, going about their lives with their own deeply held beliefs, deserve losing or are in jeopardy of losing their jobs because of their voice.  In education, we write a lot about student voice, and I think that it deserves protection from all comers.

Note:  I want to, in advance, deflect any intention of agreeing or disagreeing with the outcome of each of these examples.  I am acutely aware of the arguments on each side of the example.  My intent is simply to bring awareness to the unintended consequences of a misunderstood law and ask my reader to think about the possible unintended consequence to our future student citizens.  These are two of the most recent events that have crossed my newsfeed. My intent is to make the reader aware that Right To Work laws can become insidious ways to undermine the fragile middle and growing lower class when left unchecked under a corporate centered government that operates for the protection of the corporate purse instead the the will and rights of the people in the corporations laws used to protect.

For more information use the following links:


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It’s important that we use the same critical thinking skills we build in our classrooms every day.


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