The truth about “Right-to-Work”.


-By Lee R. Talley. Lee is a retired teacher from Tinley Park and a frequent contributor. Note: You can find more info on Right to Work from a source Lee uses in this article.

 “We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as “right-to-work.”  It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights…Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.  Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.“  – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking on right-to-work laws in 1961

It’s been 54 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke truth to power about those championing “right-to-work” laws, likening it indetured servitude.  It’s 2015 and we’re still fighting the battle.

You can bet that Gov. Bruce Rauner will use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s playbook to slash corporate taxes, shrink the number of people eligible for Medicaid and food stamps, and expand  charter schools.  But his crowning jewel is his desire to break the unions with “right-to-work” legislation.  He sees it as the necessity to his financial plan for Illinois, touting it “as the only way to fiscal solvency.”

Although “right-to-work” sounds beneficial, the term is misleading and a distortion.  These laws do not guarantee anyone a job, protect against unfair firing, guarantee equitable wages, or decent working conditions.  By undermining unions and the ability of labor and management to bargain freely, these laws weaken the best job security protection workers have — the union contract.

“Right-to-work” is also highly deceptive since it implies that workers are forced to join unions.  Not true.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1963 case NLRB v. General Motors, that workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of a collective bargaining contract.

Under federal laws (Duty of Fair Representation) unions are legally required to represent all workers covered by agreements whether they belong to a union or not.

In 2011 study (updated in 2013) by the Bureau of Labor Education at the University of Maine, it found that over time a “right-to-work” law is likely to undermine wage and benefit gains, and prevent adequate representation for workers.  Specifically it found the following:

  •      Weekly pay in free-bargaining states was on average 13.4% higher than in right-to-work states.
  •      Average annual pay for workers in all industries was 14.1% higher in free-bargaining states than in right-to-work states.
  •      Half of all right-to-work states (11 out of 22) have poverty rates over 15 percent; In contrast, only six of the 28 free-bargaining states have poverty rates over 15 percent (average for this group is 12.8 percent).
  •      Proponents for right-to-work laws often argue that a right-to-work environment will help to attract industry and encourage economic development.  However, the evidence supporting this is inconsistent, and other evidence does not support this claim. U.S. Department of Labor figures show that there were 13.1 businesses opened for every 1,000 workers in free-bargaining states as compared with only 10 businesses opened in right-to-work states, on the average.
  •      The study also found that states with right-to-work laws were actually worse off in terms of their state’s Gross State Product per capita (GSP).  It states that the most important predictors of income in a state are not “business climate” factors, but a state’s “stock of knowledge,” such as the educational levels of the state’s residents. They also concluded that “states that became right-to-work states tended to experience slower growth after adopting right-to-work legislation.”
  •      The data clearly suggests that becoming a right-to-work state is not likely to result in a healthier or stronger economy.  On the contrary, it may risk a downward slide into a more depressed economy, with higher poverty rates.  If passed, a right-to-work law could encourage “low-road” employers to offer even lower wages and fewer benefits.

The study concluded that although many proponents argue that right-to-work laws are important for business development and state economic well-being, the evidence does not support this claim.  In reality, these laws serve no other purpose than to weaken unions. This is explicitly recognized in much economic analysis of right-to-work.

 As one scholarly article from the Journal of Law and Economics stated, “We agree with the dominant opinion in the RTW literature that right-to-work laws are passed to make unions more insecure; to slow down or halt the rate at which unions are organizing and to destroy existing unions.”

 Ultimately, the phrase “right-to-work” has been found to be so misleading and confusing that the Supreme Court of Idaho refused to permit the term as part of the title on a past initiative measure proposed to voters in that state.

Representative Elaine Nekritz: My position has been that the governor is mistaken in his Scott Walker-style approach towards labor.


My Rep, Elaine Nekritz responded this morning:


I share your concern about Governor Rauner’s executive order. As the General Assembly considers a response, my position has been that the governor is mistaken in his Scott Walker-style approach towards labor. His focus should be squarely on the state’s fiscal crisis. Stripping away collective bargaining powers has done nothing to fill Wisconsin’s budget gaps and it won’t work in Illinois either.

Thanks for taking the time to contact me.



I responded with:


Thank you for responding. I like your position as far as it goes but I hope that you will push for quick General Assembly action overturning this executive order.


Mike Barrett

FYI: I’m reporting your response on Fred Klonsky’s blog.

39th State Representative Will Guzzardi: If this this anti-union, right to work nonsense comes to our chamber, it will be met with the sword – by me and by Democrats and Republicans from all over the state.

Will Guzzardi

– By Will Guzzardi. Will is the the State Representative from my 39th District.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Gov. Rauner’s first move is not to tackle our state’s structural deficit, but to take a petty potshot at the unions who supported his opponent during the campaign.

Here’s the thing: Illinoisans understand that the labor movement is the best weapon working families have to fight the corporate greed of the Bruce Rauners of the world and carve out a path to the middle class. We are a strong, proud, pro-labor state.

I think I speak for a whole lot of Democrats in Springfield when I say that we are willing to work with the Governor. I was excited to hear him talk about criminal justice reform, abuse of standardized testing, and access to capital for entrepreneurs of color. If he brings those agenda items to the legislature, he will find many of us ready to join arms in bipartisan cooperation. But if this this anti-union, right to work nonsense comes to our chamber, it will be met with the sword – by me and by Democrats and Republicans from all over the state.

Pasqual LoPresti: This governor is from outer space it seems.


– By Pasqual LoPresti. Pasqual retired as a Chicago City laborer for 18 years, 9 year as a foreman and 9 years as District Supervisor until his retirement 11 years ago.

Many of the Chicago unions have already endorsed and even contributed to that person on the 5th floor of Chicago’s City Hall.

In fact, the once proud, once respected union that I was a member of for 36 years, and a stew of Local 1001, gave this person 100,000.00 of its hard working memberships money.

Anyone you talk to in that union neither voted on or endorsed the 5th floor squatter, let alone gave a go ahead to throw their money into his bankroll. They know the threat of him outsourcing their jobs is a reality.

Now with this new Gov. its only a matter of time. Rauner is doing no more than breaking the backs of the unions. This man lies to no end and his true colors came out instantly.

The very day that the States IDOT workers were clearing a 20 inch snowfall with their dedication and long hours, he blurts out of his lying mouth that state employees make too much money.

This past Sunday he was in Lombard telling a crowd how much state workers liked him. In fact according to him, he walked into an IDOT garage and they applauded him and told him he was the 1st governor to visit their site.


He is so anti-union and so for the 1%ers and yet he was voted into office. I was no fan of Quinn but at least you knew where he was coming from.

This governor is from outer space it seems.

And once he and his wine-sharing little pal from the 5th floor in Chicago team up, the next attack will be on Chicago’s unions.

The very backless unions that turned their backs on their memberships.

A change is comming and its not going to be pretty. As a City of Chicago laborer for 18 years, a 9 year foreman, and 9 year Dist. Supervisor to retirement 11 years ago, the pride I had in my once great City, the pride and respect I once had for my union 1001, the pride I had in my job, its all gone,

Its a very hollow feeling I’m sad to say. But what none of these 1% so-called leaders can never take from me is the pride and honor in the people I once worked with.

And that I will take to my grave.

Rauner’s illegal power grab, his lies and the “tempered” Democratic response.


Governor Rauner’s seizure of Fair Share payments by state employees is based on fundamental lies.

“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers. Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inexorably linked,” Rauner said. “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct.”

This is a flat-out factual lie.

No Fair Share fees are used for political activity. None. It is against the law for union dues to be used for political purposes.

The state’s public employee unions establish political action committees for that purpose and all member payments are entirely voluntary.

In fact, as President of the Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (S.O.R.E.), our local IEA retired group, I cannot even participate in the IPACE endorsement process unless I am personally current in my IEA PAC contribution.

No Fair Share or union dues money is ever involved.

Rauner is a liar.

What is Rauner up to?

The Sun-Times’ Mark Brown has an idea.

It does raise an interesting question: Are people gullible enough to think this is really about a worker’s right to choose whether they pay dues to a union, as Rauner claims?

Or can they see through the baloney to understand that Rauner’s idea of what would make Illinois workers more competitive with other states is lower wages and benefits.

Corporate La Salle Street law firm Winston Strawn is working pro bono (Latin for “no charge, brother”) for Rauner in this attempt to take away the  union right to be paid for services provided to those who choose to be non-members.

Winston Strawn lawyer Dan Webb is the lawyer who is doing the free work for Rauner. Webb was Illinois Attorney General under Republican James Thompson. When he entered lucrative private practice he was lead defense trial counsel for General Electric in a price-fixing case, represented Microsoft in antitrust litigation, and represented Philip Morris in its tobacco-related litigation.

I explained Fair Share in a previous post.

The New York Times described Illinois Democrats’ response to Rauner’s executive order seizing Fair Share funds and challenging the law in court as being tempered.

Some critics of the governor said it was clear why he had chosen to make an executive order rather than offer a legislative proposal. The state’s legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats, many of whom have received union support over the years. On Monday evening, the reaction from legislative leaders seemed surprisingly tempered.

“Our legal staff is reviewing the governor’s executive order regarding fair share,” said the Senate president, John Cullerton, a Democrat. “At the same time, I look forward to hearing the governor’s budget as we search for common ground to address our fiscal challenges.”

This echoes the Democrats’ reaction to Rauner’s State of the State address last week. Most of the speech was an attack on unions.

But the Democratic Party response was mild to say the least.

Are House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton giving a wink and a nod to Rauner?

It is as if they are saying, “You go ahead. We won’t stop you. We don’t like the unions either. Let’s see how far you get.”

Rauner’s agenda is clear. To stop him the Democrats must be called to account. Their feet held to the fire. They hold the political power in Springfield with veto proof majorities in both chambers.

I wrote to our new State Representative Will Guzzardi this morning asking for a statement on Rauner’s power grab and asking him what he thinks the Democrats should do.

Every defender of unions and work place fairness should be contacting their state rep and senator and asking the same questions.

We can stop this.

The war on labor and unions is not new in this state.

Rauner has decided to escalate.

It is past time for us to make it a two-sided war and fight back.

I will be talking more about the war on unions Thursday on Ken Davis’ Chicago Newsroom. Ken is on Chicago Access and available later in the day on Youtube.

No university affiliation.


A year or so ago I received an email from a group of university professors who had drafted a statement critical of the dominant education reform agenda.

I was asked to sign it and include my university affiliation.

Of course, I agreed with the statement. I sent back my name. In place of my university affiliation (having none) I wrote, “K-5 art teacher, Carpenter Elementary School.”

I received a follow-up email from the group telling me that while they appreciated my support, since I had no university affiliation, they would reserve my endorsement for later if they decided to expand their list to non-university educators.

Meaning classroom teachers.

I never heard of or from them again.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I think the statement by leading educators in support of the MAP boycott is terrific.

The list includes the names of people I admire and many that I personally know.

But what makes the action of the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School so powerful and exciting is that it is the action of teachers in the classroom of a public school.

Jimi Hendrix’s high school, for God sakes.

This is teachers taking responsibility for their profession. It is teachers taking responsibility for their students’ learning. That’s what teachers are supposed to be able to do and which so-called reforms make it harder for teachers to do.

By the way. It happens anyway,  every day, in ways big and small by classroom teachers all over the country.

Rarely with press conferences or names included in online petitions. Quietly. Subversively.

The sad part of this story is that the leaders of the National Education Association, including President Dennis Van Roekel and Vice President Lily Eskelsen, should be doing what the professors did: Speak out in support of the classroom teachers  in Seattle and elsewhere.

Garfield’s teachers are NEA members after all.

If NEA leaders remain silent until July, maybe we can bring it up at the NEA RA.

Did I mention I’m running statewide in Illinois as a retired delegate?

No university affiliation.

Garfield High teachers get support from the AFT. From the NEA? Crickets.

AFT President Randi Weingarten:

Dear Garfield High School Teachers:

Thank you. Thank you for taking a courageous stand against the fixation on high-stakes testing and its harmful impact on our ability to give our students the high-quality public education they deserve.

Your actions have propelled the national conversation on the impact of high-stakes testing. Every educator understands that appropriate assessments are an integral part of a high-quality education system. But an accountability system obsessed with measuring, which punishes teachers and schools, comes at a huge cost to children. This fixation on testing has narrowed our curriculums and deprived our students of art, music, gym and other subjects that enrich their minds and make learning fun. Teachers have been forced to spend too much time on test preparation and data collection, at the expense of more engaging instruction. Ironically, this fixation on high-stakes testing actually does the opposite of what its proponents tell us it will do.

Learning is more than a test score, and teaching and learning—not testing—should drive classroom instruction. We need to be focused on growing and nurturing the minds of our students—to ensure that they can think creatively and analytically. It’s no longer enough to teach kids to memorize a bunch of numbers and terms; they must think critically and be able to absorb and interpret knowledge. We must ensure that our children are able to not only dream their dreams but also achieve them. At the same time, we must prepare students for civic engagement and to value that we all have a collective responsibility to one another.

The AFT and tens of thousands of educators, parents and students stand with you in this effort. The AFT passed a resolution at our national convention last summer focused on rebalancing our national education priorities and ensuring that teaching and learning drive our education policies. And we are focused on uniting communities across the country around this issue.

Thank you for leading this conversation.

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

Seattle Education Association is a National Education Association affiliate. From NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

From the IEA?

Some thoughts from just one of many teachers in the crosshairs.

I want to share some thoughts about the last few days of being a teacher in the crosshairs of the right-wing bullies who want to take away our unions and our democratic rights to speak out for what we think is right.

I’m writing this a day after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt and a victory for the Egyptian people in their fight for democracy.

It never stops, you know.

The fight for democracy and the fight against those who would steal it away. It never stops. It goes on everywhere in the world. And it never stops.

Many years ago I learned the words of the Civil Right Movement song that went, “They say that freedom is a constant struggle. Oh Lord, we struggle so long. We must be free.”

Why me?

Why is the Education Action Group going after me?

Because I’m outspoken. Because I’m a union guy. Because people listen and respect what I have to say. Because I have an activist history. Because they wrongly thought I’m vulnerable. Because they want to scare others. Because they’re bullies. Because they sneak around likes snakes in the grass and lie about who they are.

And then they cry like babies when we shine the light on them.

They demand (demand!) that my district fire me because I printed a picture of that little weasel, Ben Velderman, on my blog.

They cried, “The unwarranted attack on Mr. Velderman, who was simply carrying out the instructions of his supervisor, can be viewed online at”

Are they suggesting someone should feel pity for the pathetic Velderman because he was only following orders?

In that case, let’s see who gave the orders.

Who are they?

Steve Gunn is the guy who wrote the letter to my superintendent demanding that I be reprimanded for writing about his anti-union outfit on my personal blog.

Gunn is the “Communications Director” of this little four-person office in Michigan. He can be reached at (231) 733-4202 or (231) 903-5585

Perhaps you can explain to this guy about the first amendment to the US Constitution. The one about the right to speak freely.

Don’t email him from work.

Says the EAG website: “Steve has a Bachelors degree in history, with a separate completed communications major, from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.”

What kind of school is Grand Valley State that you can have a “separate completed communications major” and not learn about the first amendment?

Then there is Kyle Olsen. He is the head of the Education Action Group.

You can pretty much judge Kyle by the friends he keeps: Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart.

Although he is pretty much the low rent version.

His Twitter followers amounted to 48 the last time I looked.

A few words about my school board president.

In the last 24 hours I have received dozens of emails and texts about the letter that my school board president John Heyde wrote to Steve Gunn.

You can read it yourself here on my blog.

When I asked if I could post it John answered, “I would be honored.”

I have been across the table from John a couple of times during contract negotiations.

John’s a fair but tough negotiator. Let me tell you that he’s no pushover. You don’t do 13 hour negotiating sessions until 2AM trading proposals with a pushover.

But John cares about children, schools and, yes, teachers. I don’t want to speak for him since you can see he speaks for himself quite eloquently.

But I can say I know he believes in the collective bargaining process. I know he believes in the right of teachers to have a union. And I know he believes that the process of collective bargaining improves schools.

And John is a democrat. Small “d.” I have no idea about his party affiliations.

Communities and schools need more board members like John.

This is not just about me.

My friends and colleagues are laughing at that at this moment.

But it’s truly not.

Public school teachers are in the crosshairs of groups like EAG and others. I’m neither the first nor the last.

Groups like Stand for Children and the Civic Committee go after teachers in the legislature. They want to take away our right to strike, to organize, to collectively bargain tenure, seniority and evaluation rules.

Groups like EAG go after public school teachers through the back door. They lie about who they are. They video tape teacher’s private lives and activities. They make FOIA requests of teacher emails. Then they cry the blues when they get caught and have their slime activities brought to light.

In the end they’re all just different wings of the same bird.

Are they done with me yet?

I doubt it.

The district is going to respond to their FOIA request as the law requires. I have sent thousands of emails at work. They are incredibly mundane. Meeting times. Supply orders. Sub requests. I only wish that Velderman and Gunn are going to have to read through all of them.

There is nothing there.

But that isn’t their point. Their point is to scare people. Bargain basement terrorists really.

The answer, as always, is to stand up to bullies.

They just picked the wrong guy.

A quiet New Year’s eve at home. Then get ready to fight, tell hard truths and bring backup.

It will be a quiet evening at home for Anne, me and Ulysses.

We just got home from a two-day drive from New York to see family and friends. Despite the blizzard and the cold, there wasn’t a bad moment.

Of course, we didn’t need to get to work, get a car out of a parking space or need an ambulance.

Naturally there are rumors going around NY that the disaster of a clean-up was somehow caused by the union workers in the Sanitation Department who were out to punish the Mayor for cutting the budget and laying off workers.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the source of this rumor was the Mayor’s office. Isn’t it just like an uber manager to cover his ass when things go bad. This mayor-manager loves blaming unions any chance he gets. Witness his assault on the teachers union.

But back to my New Year’s eve plans.

We have none.

We stopped for some shrimp and I’ll mix up a little cocktail sauce. Anne will make a great salad with some blue cheese dressing. We’ll pour some wine. But after our two-day drive back from Brooklyn we will probably be dreaming sweet ones by the time the clock hits twelve.

School opens Tuesday and by then the trouble will have begun.

Like Bloomberg in NY, politicians in Springfield have their cross hairs on the backs of union teachers in Illinois.

They will be targeting my right to strike, my right to have our local and school board negotiate our own performance review procedures, my already limited rights to tenure and seniority.

And our pensions are always at risk from these suckers.

So to all my readers, friends and colleagues: Happy New Year. Enjoy the weekend. Gather with your friends and families. Hoist a few for me.

But Monday morning, get ready. 2011 looks to be one hell of a year. I like what the writer Naomi Klein said to her Facebook friends, “Get ready to fight, tell hard truths and bring backup.”

More on the CTU court victory this afternoon.

Ron Huberman profile image
Loser in court: Ron Huberman

We were among the first to report the story of the CTU’s victory in Federal court against CPS and their illegal firing of tenured teachers.

Catalyst says,

A federal ruled today that CPS wrongly dismissed hundreds of teachers in a bid to rid the district of poorly performing educators. But CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union disagree on whether the ruling means that the teachers must be hired back.

Over the summer, the district laid off about 749 teachers, according to CPS. CEO Ron Huberman made headlines when he introduced a resolution to lay off teachers with poor evaluations first, without regard to tenure or seniority. The district never provided a count of how many poor performers were ultimately among those laid off.

In a press release, the union said the judge found the district’s actions illegal and that the teachers must be recalled.