Right to Work State

Georgia is a “Right to Work” state.  I never really cared or even knew what that meant before.  A vague explanation of it on Wikipedia still leaves me wondering.  If it means good jobs with benefits, healthcare, and retirement, well Georgia certainly has very few of those anymore, especially for the unskilled and the undervalued.

Right to Work in truth translates to jobs with no benefits, wages below the poverty level, and abusive labor practices, I understand that, I’ve lived that.

I worked in a factory job recently where the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws poster hung in the bathroom.  You could read it while sitting on the toilet.  People sat on the toilet a lot since that job provided a 30-minute lunch break and no other breaks during the course of a .9+ hour workday. The toilet was a place they couldn’t legally deny you a respite.

I worked at another factory job where metal welding fumes and nanoparticles of metal dust polluted the breathing air, especially during the winter when the overhead vents were turned off to save heating costs.  I knew a guy who worked for several years in a particularly smoky part of the shop.  He contracted brain cancer, which drove him to suicide.  A disgruntled employee who was fired about the same time called OSHA.  I was relieved, as finally something would be done about the terrible conditions there; not just the smoke but the lack of proper ventilation during the incredible summer heat that sometimes peaked above 120 degrees.  I asked someone when OSHA was coming.  They said they’d already come and gone.  Nothing changed; nothing at all.  I’m sure money changed hands for them to look the other way.

In a Republican-controlled state, it’s widely believed that workers banding together to protect their rights and bargain for better wages and conditions is a communist idea, since at the turn of the last century Russia declared itself a worker’s state.  But in 1890, well before the Russian Revolution, coal miners in Tennessee went on strike to prevent convicts from taking their jobs and later used deadly force to that end.  They may not have unionized, but they did band together and organized for their self-preservation. Sadly, the numbers and power of unions in our country has steadily declined since the end of World War I.

So-called Right to Work is really about businesses having all the rights and political authority, leaving workers with no recourse.  It has succeeded in dividing the country and creating a division among nonunion and union workers, and between communities vying for attracting businesses.  

Right to Work?  How about Right to Fair Work? The alternative is the continued impoverishment of a working class that once made this country the arsenal of democracy.

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