A 'Right To' Words that Work
Words have power. If anyone wonders whether conservatives have taken the lead in effective political catch phrases, the term "right to work" should remove all doubt.
The phrase has popped up a lot in the news lately after Gov.
The simplest answer: It is because they allow you to work through a strike. They mainly forbid unions from requiring workers to pay union dues, even in a union shop. But the biggest impact of such laws always has been in their power to weaken the effectiveness of strikes, the most powerful leverage that unions have.
That's why unions, in their attempt to come up with a catchy comeback, refer to right-to-work legislation as "union-busting laws." Or, as President
That's pretty good, but it is hard to beat "right-to-work" as a catchy phrase that clearly implies quite the opposite of what it actually means. George Orwell, the creator of the up-is-down, black-is-white "Newspeak" in his novel "1984," would be impressed.
The phrase stands with modern masterpieces of spin by pollster-wordsmith
"Management has clearly won the battle of semantics with labor," wrote
Unfortunately for the labor movement, those substantive victories have gotten fewer and farther between. That's what makes the
Here's the big irony: The very benefits that unions brought have led to the undoing of unions. Unions helped to raise working-class wages, benefits, work rules and the living standards that became the envy of the world. But rising global competition in recent decades has caused industry to move overseas -- taking those good-paying jobs to where the cost of labor is a lot cheaper.
Significantly, a similar point was made in the early days of the right-to-work phrase.
Today's labor movement faces a similar public relations challenge. Like many other Americans, I appreciate what unions have done to raise wages and standards for all American workers, whether they belonged to unions or not. Unions brought us "the weekend," their ads point out, and indeed they did -- among many other fine benefits that we mostly take for granted today.
But as the income gap widens between those Americans who have some schooling beyond high school and those who don't, today's public is asking today's unions, what have you done for us lately? I believe the unions can come up with some good answers, as soon as they find the words.
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A 'Right To' Words that Work | Politics
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