Skip to comments.Is Right-to-Work Racist?
Posted on 01/31/2013 7:47:29 AM PST by MichCapCon
The Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago, but one college professor is bringing the era up in the debate over right-to-work in Michigan.
Michigan State University Economics Professor Charles Ballard said that states that embraced slavery with a "long history of strong hierarchy and inequality in race relations" would naturally be supportive of right-to-work laws.
"All of the states that seceded from the union in 1861, plus a stripe in the Midwest, in the plains and in the Rocky Mountains, those states are the poorest in the country," he said in an Mlive article based on comments he made at the Detroit Economic Clubs 2013 Michigan Economic Outlook luncheon.
Ballard was referring to the 11 Southern states that seceded in late 1860 and 1861. They were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee.
However, there are 24 states currently that are RTW, meaning less than half were states that seceded from the union over 150 years ago.
So why did Ballard link RTW with Confederate states that supported slavery?
Heres Ballards response via e-mail:
I guess I will begin by saying simply that my statement is true. Every state that joined the Confederacy is a RTW state, while 13 of the other 39 states are RTW. I am a native Texan. Of course I am NOT saying that secession 'caused' RTW. It's a lot more complex than that. But there is a connection.
The economies and societies of the Confederate states were extraordinarily hierarchical. Racial hierarchy was by far the most important aspect of this, but if a society is organized around hierarchy and inequality in one dimension, its easy for that to spill over into other dimensions. For example, before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote passed the Congress, a bunch of states in the west had already allowed suffrage for women, but no Southern states had. After Congress passed the Amendment, not only did many of the Southern state legislatures not vote to ratify, but they explicitly voted to reject allowing women the right to vote. My interpretation of this is that the Southern legislators were devoted both to inequality by race and to inequality by gender.
And the South has long been the region that has been least favorable to union organizing. The connection, in my view, is that a region with a long history of strong hierarchy and inequality in race relations, etc., would naturally be a region that would tend toward having a less level playing field between employers and workers.
Of course, many of the liberal policies that were enacted, despite Southern opposition, are now well established: No one is saying we should reinstitute slavery, or that we should deny women the right to vote. And of course, I am NOT equating RTW with slavery, or with the denial of womens right to vote. Far from it.
But the South does remain the most conservative region of the country, and that manifests itself in labor relations and in a host of other ways. As a native Southerner, I think the historical context is relevant to our understanding.
Every Western state in the country granted women the right to vote before the passage of the 19th Amendment. The states of South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona are modern right-to-work states which had full suffrage for women at that time. At the same time, only the modern non-right-to-work states of Michigan (until recently) and New York allowed full suffrage for women. A lot of the reason behind this, historians say, was to entice women westward.
Vernon Burton, a professor of history and computer science and director of the Clemson CyberInstitute at Clemson University, said he agreed with a lot of what Ballard said, but said there is no direct correlation between the Civil War and unions.
Burton said the states that seceded had slavery and were primarily farming and agricultural and would have had little contact with unions, which were primarily in the manufacturing cities in the North.
I do not think seceding is a direct correlation with right-to-work laws," Burton said. "I think there are complex factors that underlie both.
Burton said Southern cynicism of unions can be traced back to the 1934 textile workers strike that involved about 400,000 workers throughout the country. Burton said unions promised striking Southern workers that theyd feed them if they went on strike but never followed through because they lacked the resources. Historians say that left lingering resentment against unions for decades.
Antony Davies, an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University, said the comparison of right-to-work laws with the Confederate states is misguided.
He explained his point of view in an email:
It is ironic that Ballard equates right-to-work states with the secessionist states (implying that the same states that support right-to-work laws are also those that supported slavery), Davies wrote.
The premise behind slavery is that people do not own their own labor. Rather, a person's labor is owned by his master. (This is quite different from employment wherein a worker voluntarily exchanges his labor for money.)
The premise behind labor unions is that people do not own their own labor. Rather a person's labor is owned by a union. The union will dictate whether you work, when you work, and at what wage you may offer your labor.
Now, if union membership were voluntary, there would be no slavery analogy because workers could voluntarily pledge their labor to a union in exchange for union benefits. The problem arises when the law takes away the workers freedom by forcing him to join a union. This is exactly what right-to-work states prohibit.
In a right-to-work state, I am a free man because my labor belongs to me. If I choose to pledge it to a union, I am free to do so. If I choose not to pledge my labor to a union, I am free to do that also. In a non-right-to-work state, I can only work if the union says I can work and then only under the conditions that the union imposes. In non-right-to-work states, the law regards my labor as belonging not to me but to a union. This is slavery.
Stacy Swimp, president of the Frederick Douglass Society in Flint, recently wrote that "right-to-work works for Black Americans."
"From 2000 to 2010 right-to-work states black population increased by 17.4 percent, well over double the 7.6 percent increase for forced-unionism states as a group," Swimp wrote. "The 9.8 percentage point advantage in black population growth in right-to-work states even outpaced the 9 percentage point edge right-to-work states registered in white population growth.
"Big Labor apologists who are now trying to play the race card against right-to-work laws need to answer one simple question: If forced unionism is so good for black Americans, why are they fleeing in droves from the states where this exploitative system is still in place?"
The premise behind slavery is that people do not own their own labor?!
Just what the hell do you think the income tax is? If I own my own labor, and I exchange it for an equal value of dollars, THERE IS NO GAIN.
How do these people become Professors?
This man is a racist and he will use anything to claim racism against the other side.
The fact that he is full of crap does not matter. He is a Learned Professor.
I didn’t know Michigan seceded from the Union in 1860???
Unions are the farthest from allowing people freedon from oppressive union bosses who steal their member’s money to further their own greed and agendas.
This MSU “professor” is one dumb F*ck.
We all are used to hearing how unions are keeping minorities out of their membership.
This “professor” is a racist loser.
Must be something in the Food. It's the only explanation.
Another “Professor” who is trying to re-write history. The barking seals will dutifully follow along....
I found this very interesting article:
Rahm Emanuel, Trade-Union Racism, and the Burden of History
It’s history, but history creates a long shadow. In 2005, Ta-Nehisi Coates, now a star at The Atlantic, visited the South Side as WalMart was making inroads there and in cities throughout the country. There he found this painful wound was still fresh:
Chicago is a union town. But in Mitts’ ward—and among many poor blacks—some unions rank only a couple of notches above the Ku Klux Klan. Black leaders in Chicago have repeatedly charged that the building-trades unions, traditionally controlled by whites, are keeping a grip on jobs. While 37% of Chicago is black, only 10% of all new apprentices in the construction trades between 2000 and 2003 were black, according to the Chicago Tribune. The unions that most vociferously oppose Wal-Mart are not in the building trades but represent retail workers, such as the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which has long welcomed blacks.
Sheesh, democrats are such one trick ponies. Right to work is racist, merit based pay is racist, the 2nd amendment is racist.
Are they not capable of thinking even the tiniest bit out of the box?
No wonder why economists seem to find every single economic shift “unexpected”...The teachers of the profession appear to be idiots.
That’s a flawed premise, because I will bet you that the opposition to being in unions is mainly from white people who don’t want to answer to union bosses, and have an high regard for their own personal freedom. It is not because there are robber barons and plantation owners in the south. They could probably do fine dealing with unions, just as Ford did in Michigan.
We truly live in a bizzare world. This moron completely ignores the bigoted history of the labor movement. In the late 1800s, the labor movement did not admit blacks and advocated laws to stop low wage blacks from taking work from higher wage, unionized whites. One of the most prominent pro-union laws, Davis-Bacon, was passed to keep non-union blacks from working.
Beat me to it. Historically, unions excluded blacks and tried to keep the from competing individually at lower wages.
I bet if checked Unions today, they would still be mostly white. The only exception would be the government workers unions...
Silly man, everyone knows RTW laws are directly related to global warming, not racism.
Of course it is. Everything is racist. See, only black people are in unions.
Also, the Second Amendment is racist. Only white people own guns.
Similarly, capitalism is racist. Only white people get paychecks.
Don't forget: petroleum companies are racist. Only white people drive cars.
Everything is racist, and you damn well know it.
Thought that they were kicked out in part to the union objecting to the murder. The Japanese werent just a threat to the unions but to Chrysler as a whole.
I see a flaw in your theorum.
Global Warming is racist.
Classic example (the beginning thesis) of an academic
getting a “bright idea” one day sitting at his desk, then
following it into intellectual oblivion, and basically setting up the terms for a counterargument that winds up obliterating his entire argument. This was provided by Professor Davies, who nailed it point by point. I’m glad I had the patience to read that far.
Anyone else catch the subtlety of this line?
On the contrary, unions have throughout their history been used as a means to keep minorities out of well-paying jobs.
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