The Attack on Unions

Right-Wing Politics and Democratic Possibilities

About Abby Scher

Boston demonstrators support Wisconsin public employees, February 2011 (©Ellen Shub)

Boston demonstrators support Wisconsin public employees, February 2011 (©Ellen Shub)

The November 2010 Republican Sweep

More than a million people watched on Youtube as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sneered at a public school teacher who had the temerity to ask him at a September 2010 town meeting how his policies would help the middle class when so many teachers had been laid off.1 His response? He wasn’t to blame—union chiefs forced the layoffs and were responsible. Young conservatives cheered his take-no-prisoners style, though only a few months later, Christie’s high approval ratings, particularly among women, tanked.2

Still, the voucher-loving, tax-hating governor seemed to show free-market conservatives what they could do once they were in charge: how deeply they could cut government, and how successfully they could go after union “bosses,” even with a Democratic legislature. Elected only in 2009, Christie quickly became an inspiration for the Right, as he went full throttle in blaming unions for the grossly underfunded state pension system and the $11 billion deficit he inherited.

Sidebar: States Where Labor is Under Attack
The 22 Right-to-Work states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

The 16 states challenging public-sector unions’ collective bargaining rights: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.

After the midterm elections of November 2010, he had a lot of company in statehouses across the nation. Aided by a potent, antilabor alignment of grassroots groups, legislators, and conservative institutions, Republicans enjoyed a sweep of state legislatures not seen since 1928. Twenty states now have both Republican-dominated legislatures and Republican governors, in contrast to the previous session, when only eight states were all GOP.3 Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine flipped from totally Democratic to totally Republican, and all three governors are aggressively anti-union.4 Tea Party-supported Republicans now occupy top leadership spots in Maine and other northern states. With the help of independents, the Republican base elected businessmen such as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who campaigned as a moderate, and Florida Governor Rick Scott, who carried their anti-union views from the private sector into office.

And here’s a key point: these new Republicans are ideologically more conservative than those who came before them. Prolabor Republicans—and there still are some—have been picked off, year by year, in primary challenges. The Tea Party insurgency, backed by right-to-work and other corporate money, added rocket fuel to the trend, as primary voters ejected those they deemed RINOs—Republicans in Name Only.

What’s at stake is more than the livelihoods of union members. These conservatives want government to operate on a “business model” that dismantles public education, privatizes government functions—leaving retirees to fend for themselves, among other things—and abolishes collective bargaining, the right of workers to negotiate as a group over the conditions of their work. Unions are a right-wing target because they form a bulwark against such privatization, and they and their members fight against a winner-takes-all economy that leaves less and less for the poorer 98 percent. Using language right out of the right-wing populist playbook, conservatives smear public-sector unionists in particular as “elite” workers enjoying “special privileges”—which their “good government” reforms will eliminate.

The usual deep-pocketed suspects were involved in the Republican sweep and the anti-union policies that followed: wealthy conservatives like the Koch brothers, who funded the campaigns of some governors, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, directly and others indirectly with a $1 million-plus donation to the Republican Governors’ Association; political action committees (PACs), like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, which channel millions from wealthy donors to political campaigns; and business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the free market Club for Growth.5

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie quickly became an inspiration for the Right, as he went full throttle in blaming unions for the grossly underfunded state pension system.

While unions later complained that the candidates ran stealth campaigns, keeping mum about their anti-union politics, plenty of candidates and groups were perfectly frank. Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell maintained while campaigning, “The secret to success in Virginia is this—you keep taxes, regulation and litigation low and you keep strong Right to Work laws, and if you do that, the free enterprise system will thrive.”6 The so-called right-to-work laws to which he’s referring allow workers benefitting from union bargaining units to refuse to join the union or pay union dues. In Indiana alone, crowed the National Right to Work Committee, local and “national Right to Work organizations sent out roughly 278,000 pieces of targeted mail identifying the forced-unionism positions of state legislative incumbents and challengers.”7 [italics in the original].

As soon as the election was over, the union-busters got busy. In Indiana, a right-to-work bill was submitted on the very first day of the legislative session—though the National Right to Work Committee was soon sputtering that the state’s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels wasn’t doing anything to enact it. New Hampshire’s Republican legislators passed right-to-work bills in February and April, but without a veto-proof majority they faced a skeptical Democratic governor. Missouri’s divided Republican legislature tried but failed to pass right-to-work legislation.

The antilabor legislation isn’t limited to right-to-work bills. Also introduced into state legislatures were bills repealing project labor agreements—requirements that contractors on publicly funded projects be guided by collective bargaining agreements with unions laying out the terms of work—and prevailing wage laws, requiring contractors on such projects to pay their workers what are essentially union rates. These laws, which benefit construction unions, help set standards of work and keep all wages from spiraling down. Idaho’s new law banning project labor agreements is now snarled in the courts. But the main battlegrounds are the heavily union states in the North, including Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as well as not-so-union states like New Hampshire, and Maine.8 Important fights are taking place in Florida and Tennessee, too. According to the AFL-CIO, 26 states are on the firing line over prevailing-wage laws. The Wall Street Journal called the state legislative sessions that ended in May and June test runs for battles this year.9

Collective Bargaining Challenged

After the Republican sweep, public-sector workers braced themselves for struggles in nineteen states, mostly in the Midwest, over their ability to bargain as a group over wages and benefits. The media turned its attention to this issue during the uproar in Wisconsin in January and February, when Democratic legislators fled the state rather than give newly elected Governor Scott Walker the quorum he needed to pass legislation curtailing the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector unions, barring state and municipal governments from collecting dues for unions, and requiring annual recertification elections for unions. Standoffs between Tea Party activists and union supporters became the paradigmatic media images of the season.10 After weeks of prolabor demonstrations by teachers, unionists from the private sector, public-sector workers, and progressives, the Republican-dominated legislature used procedural manipulations to pass the limitations—only to find them snarled in court battles. The law finally took effect in late June even as pro-union activists campaigned to recall the senators who voted in favor of it; they need to get rid of just three of the eight Republicans they are targeting to regain control of the state senate in elections scheduled for early August.

Also facing a fall recall vote because of his support for antilabor legislation is Michigan Governor Snyder, whom progressives hold accountable for a so-called emergency financial managers law, under which the state is consolidating municipalities, bypassing elected officials, and appointing “crisis managers” who have the power to rip up contracts and end collective bargaining in school districts.11 The majority-Black town of Benton Harbor and Detroit’s school system are Snyder’s test cases. This law too sparked a lawsuit and a recall campaign of the governor and some legislators, with 800,000 signatures needed by August 5.12

Twenty states now have both Republican dominated legislatures and Republican governors, in contrast to the previous session, when only eight states were all GOP.

Although it attracted far less national attention, on April 1, Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich signed a law, SB5, that imposes limits on collective bargaining even broader than Wisconsin’s. SB5 includes police and firefighters’ unions, which Walker left out. Like the Wisconsin law, SB5 bans strikes and allows the negotiation only of wages, not of benefits such as health insurance, sick time, or pensions. It also eliminates automatic pay increases in favor of merit raises. Ohio, the birthplace of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the site of the rubber and steel strikes that launched the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), is now ground zero in the counterattack. Union radicals there have pulled together in a new, national Emergency Labor Network,13 while locally, Ohio unions and their allies collected a record number of signatures, almost 1.3 million, to force a referendum on November 8 to repeal SB5. The successful petition drive put the law on hold until after the vote.14

Why the Right Opposes Unions

While unions and their supporters are waging a vigorous counterattack, there is no denying that the Republican takeover of the states was a hard-fought victory for three overlapping, antilabor elements of the free-market Right:

  1. Corporate-minded conservatives such as the Koch brothers, the National Right to Work Committee, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They hate unions because they view profits as rightfully belonging to business owners and see union demands for wage and benefit hikes as extortion. They want total control over working conditions, wages, and benefits, because their main goal is raising the bottom line.
  2. Moralists, seen most vividly at Tea Party rallies. Because of their vision of rugged individualism, they oppose any collective endeavor—whether by unions or by government—in the name of the common good. They pit virtuous taxpayers against “taxeaters” and deride unionism as a form of authoritarian socialism imported straight from the Soviet Union. FOX News broadcaster Glenn Beck played a big role popularizing this vision, which was once confined to marginal Patriot movement activists and the far Right.
  3. Technocratic conservatism, associated with Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, think tanks like the Cato and Manhattan Institutes, and state legislators organized through the nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These groups claim—contrary to the evidence—that “limited government” works better than a regulatory, social-welfare state in creating jobs, building the incomes of everyday people, and enriching the middle class.15 For the technocrats, unions are bad because they are “job killers” in the private sector and demand inefficient costs in the public sector.16 They see private businesses as the prototype for how public institutions should run and push for the privatization of government services, most notably schools.17

Anti-Union Rhetoric, New and Old

The billionaire Koch brothers fund all three anti-union manifestations with their petrochemical fortune: the corporate conservatives through the Heritage Foundation, Cato, and Manhattan Institutes, as well as the lesser known Mercatus Center at George Mason University; the moralist-eclectic Tea Partiers through Americans for Prosperity; and the technocrats through ALEC and campaign donations to politicians such as Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The brothers are important players, but they have the backing of a longstanding, deep bench. The free-market notions that unions kill jobs and are bad for the economy have been promoted for decades by other right-wing funders, such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Wilson Family Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Castle Rock Foundation. After World War II, as some corporations made an uneasy truce with their workers, corporate-funded groups such as the National Right to Work Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce led the charge.18 More recently, these powerhouses have been joined by the public relations expert Rick Berman, whose firm is notable for setting up antilabor and anti-environmental front groups, with names like the Center for Union Facts and the Employee Freedom Action Committee, to flog his clients’ messages.19 The convergence of the economic crisis, underfunded public pensions, and the Tea Party insurgency has created the moment they’ve all been waiting for.

Conservatives want government to operate on a “business model” that dismantles public education, privatizes government functions, and abolishes collective bargaining.

The long-established anti-union message presented by the think tanks and corporate-funded advocates has four elements:

  1. Union leaders are undemocratic thugs.
  2. Unions restrict individual choice.
  3. Union workers are unproductive.
  4. Unions interrupt the law of supply and demand by setting wages, thereby undermining free enterprise.

According to this reasoning, unions are both immoral and damaging to business and the economy. Weakening unions will jumpstart wage growth during the recession, argues the National Right to Work Committee: “Right to Work and Lower Taxes appear to deliver a one-two punch in states’ fights against unemployment and personal income decline. In fact,” the committee claims, referring to Florida, Virginia, and Tennessee, “Right To Work states lead in economic prosperity and personal income growth.”20

Tea Party candidates and their supporters have picked up on the venerable rhetoric about unions as Communist threats that would create a big government unsupportable by the tax base. Like Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s point man on privatizing government functions such as Social Security and Medicare, the new Republicans feel no need to compromise on their embrace of the free-market mantra. To them, individuals who band together to negotiate their wages and working conditions are destroying not only businesses’ ability to create jobs but the entire moral order. Ryan says, “The attack on democratic capitalism, on individualism and freedom in America, is an attack on the moral foundation of America.”21 This kind of thinking is emotionally supported by a belief system known as “producerism,” in which the middle class feels that its hard work is exploited by the lazy rich above it and the freeloading poor below.22

In contrast to this extreme individualism, unions point out that theirs are democratic institutions that enable workers to fight exploitation, improve working conditions, protect wages, and win social reforms like the forty-hour work week, which benefit all workers. Union participation in corporate governance can actually democratize enterprises. Of course, like all democratic institutions, unions need oversight and accountability, so that officers who exploit their power don’t get away with it. But conservative media such as the New York Post and Rick Berman’s websites feature corrupt union officials to signal that any collective action is illegitimate.

The Right-Wing’s Antilabor Strategists

In good technocratic fashion, in early March 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a comprehensive blueprint for reversing proworker rules at the state level in order, it said, to create jobs. Its proposals include reducing state and local minimum and living-wage requirements when these exceed the federal levels; cutting the length and rates of unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation; reducing leave, rest, and overtime levels that exceed the federal minimums; promoting right-to-work laws; and banning the payment of unemployment benefits to locked out workers.23 The liberal think tank the Economic Policy Institute points out that in the decade after Oklahoma became a right-to-work state in 2001, its unemployment rate differed little from its neighbors.24 Nevertheless, a chamber press release insisted that its plan for “streamlining government” would create “746,462 net new jobs nationwide.” Such unfounded claims are enticing stuff for a nation in the midst of a recession.

The chamber is aided in its antilabor push by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization claiming as members “more than 2,000” state lawmakers who say they want limited government, as well as a so-called Private Enterprise Board with representatives from major U.S. corporations, including Exxon Mobil, WalMart, and Coca Cola.25 ALEC teams legislators with member-lobbyists to craft model legislation such as right-to-work laws, and laws repealing minimum-wage hikes and prevailing-wage requirements.26 ALEC teams also promote so-called paycheck-protection laws; called “paycheck deception” by unions and sought for decades by their opponents, these laws require explicit consent from union members before their dues can be directed toward political activities.27 Arizona passed such a law in its last session.28 And across the country, powered by a network of legislators organized by ALEC, states are seeking, in the name of austerity, to follow Utah, which shifted its public workers out of traditional, defined-benefit pensions, in which retirees receive a predictable amount each month, to 401(k)-style, defined-contribution plans, in which workers invest in funds directly and receive whatever the market is paying at the moment.

Why Attack Public-Sector Workers?

The attack on unions is old hat. New, however, are the number of Republican-dominated legislatures giving anti-union bills a chance of passage; the Tea Party, which gives the sentiment a popular base; the new politics of austerity created by the Right to engage with the economic crisis; and the attack on public-sector unions, in particular.

The usual suspects do not seem to have crafted the most potent justifications for the latest attack on the public-sector unions. ALEC, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Right to Work Committee have not traditionally distinguished between types of unions. Republicans had been gun-shy about going after public-sector unions after a 2005 California ballot initiative curbing the unions’ use of dues for politics was roundly defeated (although in the same year, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels met with success when he bypassed the legislature and removed state workers’ collective bargaining rights with an executive order ).29 In January 2010, the Heritage Foundation had merely called on government to “reject union calls for higher taxes [and] reject proposals to increase union membership in the government.” Freedom Works, the beltway group through which former House Majority Leader Dick Armey mobilizes Tea Partiers, has long attacked teachers’ unions in its effort to dismantle public schools. But even it only launched a broad campaign against public-sector unions in March.

A major push seems to have come from local Tea Party tax protesters, notably in California, regional think tanks like the free-market Manhattan Institute and California’s Pacific Research Institute, and Republican politicians and strategists like Christie. (see box) The underfunding of some state pensions and a few large payouts to retirees gave conservatives a big bat with which to beat public sector unions. The Republican Governors Association gathering in San Diego in November 2010, right after the election, was abuzz with Wisconsin Governor-elect Scott Walker’s campaign remark, “We cannot and should not maintain a system where public employees are the ‘haves’ and the taxpayers footing the bill are the ‘have-nots.’”30 Public-sector unions were becoming a political football.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich, the son of a public-sector worker himself, as he distinguished between public- and private-sector unions: “With organized labor, look, the public-employee unions, particularly the teachers union, you know how I feel about them,” Kasich said. (He doesn’t like them.) “But for the unions that make things, I’m going to sit down with them. And I’ll tell you what, they’re going to become part of the solution, not part of this problem.” Similarly, on the FOX News Hannity program, the conservative shock-pundit Ann Coulter distinguished between “steelworkers who should have unions” and public-sector workers, who shouldn’t.31

Free-market notions that unions kill jobs and are bad for the economy have been promoted for decades by right-wing funders.

In a backgrounder on public-sector unions published on September 1, close to the elections,32 the Heritage Foundation now implied that private sector unions are legitimate while “government unions”—a phrase promoted by the Republican pollster Frank Luntz because it polls badly—are not. “Collective bargaining by unions takes place very differently in government than it does in the private sector,” wrote Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics James Sherk.

Private-sector unions have competitors and bargain over the profits they help create. The government earns no profits. Government unions have a legal monopoly and bargain for a greater share of tax dollars. Collective bargaining in government means that voters’ elected representatives must agree on tax and spending decisions with union representatives. Collective bargaining also politicizes the civil service. Government unions negotiate contract provisions that force workers to join and subsidize their fundraising. These subsidies have made them the top political spenders in the country. They use that money to lobby for higher taxes and protect their inflated compensation.33

Over at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Glenn Spencer, head of the Workforce Freedom Initiative, put it this way: “Public-sector unions have a guaranteed source of revenue—you and me as taxpayers.”34

Attacks on public-sector workers, like attacks on “tax-cheating” welfare queens in the past, give the debate a (sometimes unconscious) racist tinge, since public-sector workers are disproportionately people of color.35 Census data shows that African Americans are “thirty percent more likely than other workers to be employed in the public sector,” says Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center; indeed, he argues that public employment helped create the Black middle class.36

In attacking public-sector unions and their contributions to political campaigns, the Right presents itself as a good-government champion with a simple message: unions are bad for government. Karl Rove’s Government Union Reform Action Center, which operates out of Crossroads GPS, champions Christie as a good-government hero for issuing an executive order barring public-employee unions from lobbying the politicians they bargain with. Crossroads GPS itself is promoting the GOP’s Public Employee Pension Transparency Act, which would require states to use a different method for calculating how large pension holdings should be—one that would make the state-pension crisis seem even worse.

Labor Fights Back

In mid-February, at the Washington, D.C., Marriott Hotel, representatives from the National Right to Work Committee, the Heritage Foundation, and other enterprises eager to destroy labor were busy setting up booths for the Conservative Political Action Conference. Youngsters in dark suits created displays of reading material about the free market.

At the same time, in a nearby ballroom, 600 United Steel Worker activists were discussing ways to fight state efforts to weaken both public- and private-sector unions. United Steel Workers International President Leo Gerard offered brilliant schooling in popular economics: trade policy, Chinese currency, tax policy, the financial sector—you name it. He was giving his troops ideological weapons for the fight of their lives. “The rich took the anger of our people and turned it against them [in the Tea Party],” he said. “We have a responsibility to invite you into the battle. And you have a responsibility to get in.”

“We lost 100,000 members in the economic collapse,” added International Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson. “They’re not here because they can’t be.” And things will get worse, he warned. “Best guess,” Johnson told his audience, “twenty percent of the union will leave under Right to Work. It will destroy the finances of your local union, and the national, and impede our ability to fight.” Wages are much lower in the country’s 22 right-to-work states, where unions don’t have the power to bargain up the rates, than in others—an average of $5,538 lower, to be exact, said Gerard. So, the fight is not just for union members but for all workers.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter distinguishes between “steelworkers who should have unions” and public-sector workers, who shouldn’t.

The Steel Workers are well-aware that some of their neighbors soak in FOX News and its anti-union messages.37 The unions’ defense of “big-government” programs makes them targets of the Tea Party, as well as of their traditional corporate adversaries. In a state breakout session, one regional leader said, “We’re the coaches, we’re the choir directors. We have to show what the union dollar does for the community. When we make 28 percent more a week, we spend more money in our community … Let people know we’re working to protect Social Security.” The Steel Worker leadership, along with that of the AFL-CIO, takes it for granted that unions have a responsibility to fight for laws that regulate wages and hours, and benefits such as Medicare and Social Security, which help everyone. “If they disable us, and we never get a pay increase, what’s it going to do for the nonunion people?” the regional leader said. “This is one of the things we can tell the nonunion people.”

The Steel Workers and other industrial unions are determined that the Right will not succeed in dividing them from their public-sector brothers and sisters. A few weeks after the Washington meeting, in the midst of the labor uprising in Wisconsin, Gerard addressed a rally at Steel Worker Union headquarters in Pittsburgh: “The recent wave of attacks on public employees is not the fault of the workers but the result of giving enormous tax breaks to the rich and the ultra-rich,” he said. “Public-sector unions are being vilified, used as the scapegoats as budget shortfalls are, pure and simple, being used as political fodder to turn Americans against organized labor.”38

Polls show that many Americans agree with him. A March 2011 national Bloomberg survey found that 63 percent of respondents “don’t think states should be able to break their promises to retirees.” Respondents split over whether governors truly “aim to balance their budgets or weaken unions that back Democratic foes.” Seventy-two percent view public employees favorably, and about half say that “governors are unfairly targeting unions.”39

Yet conservatives had reason to believe their attacks on unions would go over well. Even in the Bloomberg poll, pro-union sentiment outpolled anti-union sentiment by only nine points, 49 to 40 percent. Americans’ support for unions started drifting downward in 2007 as the National Right to Work Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent tens of millions of dollars on anti-union ads, in a successful effort to defeat federal legislation that would have made union organizing easier.40 The advertisements brought the anti-union messages that the Right usually pumps out to its supporters to the general public, as well as to workers targeted by organizing campaigns. The propaganda becomes more effective as union density shrinks; only twelve percent of Americans now belong to unions. Fewer and fewer people know anything about unions first hand, or even know someone in a union. The idea that unions fight for a living wage and rights for all workers is almost wholly unknown.

The outlook is not completely bleak, however. Prolabor Republicans have slowed the sweep in Florida, where the governor was unable to bar automatic payroll deduction of dues by public sector unions; in Colorado, where a bill failed that would have ratified a four-year-old executive order barring collective bargaining by public sector unions; and in Missouri, where Republican legislators questioned whether a right-to-work push would really create jobs.41

“The recent wave of attacks on public employees is not the fault of the workers but the result of giving enormous tax breaks to the rich and the ultrarich.”

Shrinking unions have learned that they can’t win this fight alone, and are strengthening their relationships with small-business, women’s, immigrant-rights, Black, and Latino groups. As inequality worsens, and obscene Wall Street paydays get more attention even as unemployment festers, they propose a moral vision, calling for Americans to build a more egalitarian nation. Groups such as Interfaith Worker Justice provide platforms where people can ask fundamental questions about how the economy works, why Americans don’t talk about class, why big companies don’t pay taxes, and why the top one percent are the only ones who are doing better. By tying moral insights together with technical knowledge about how an egalitarian economy would work, and how fair labor and tax rules would be structured, unions and the Left can regain momentum and remake our world.


“The Trouble with Public Sector Unions”

[div class=”foot-notes”]


1 “Governor Christie Responds to Teacher During Town Hall,” September 8, 2010.

2 Victor Lee, “Who is Chris Christie? Why is he the new patron saint of Conservatism?”, February 28, 2010. Huey-Burns, “Chris Christie’s Approval Rating Hits New Low,”, June 21, 2011.

3 Josh Goodman,” Republicans win most legislative seats in generations,”, November 3, 2010.

4 Pew Center on the States, http://www.stateline.orgNote Pew viewed Michigan’s Snyder as a moderate in his race against the union-backed Democrat. Melissa Maynard, “Moderate Republican candidate swims against party tide in Michigan,”, October 4, 2010.

5 Justin Elliot, “Billionaires give 91 percent of funds for Rove-tied group,” Salon,
20 September 2010.

6 Dr. Frank Lutz, “Election Advertising: Lessons of 2010,” The Word Doctors, p. 3.

7 “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Sabotages Right to Work Law, National Right to Work Committee, May 1, 2011.

8 “Union Density in the United States, 2010,” The Center of Labor Education and Research,

9 Kris Maher and Amy Merrick, “Bills Try to Curb the Reach of Unions,” Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2011.

10 Tea party activists blog about union thugs, for instance here, and here Unionists complain the handful of tea party protestors wins the media attention, not their much larger ranks.

11 Sarah Jaffe, “Shock Doctrine: ‘Emergency Finance Managers’ and the Right-Wing’s Power Grab,” Alternet, June 26, 2011.’emergency_finance_managers’_and_the_right-wing’s_power_grab?page=entire

12 “Gov. Snyder Recall Petition Language Approved,”, April 18, 2011.

13 Emergency Labor Network,

14 Jim Provance, “Record 1.3 Million Back Vote to Torpedo SB5,” Toledo Blade, June 30, 2011.

15 An excellent resource tracking how rightwing think tanks promote free market economic theories that even conservative academics can’t stomach is Jonathan Chait’s THE BIG CON: The true story of how Washington got hoodwinked and hijacked by crackpot economics (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007). James Galbraith is a liberal academic who shows the fallacy of “free market” theories in The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too (New York: The New Press, 2008). Dollars and Sense magazine and New Deal 2.0, a blog of the Roosevelt Institute, are forums for a range of academics thinking about how government and the economy shape one another. More popular resources include Paul Krugman’s NY Times column and Joshua Holland’s The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy: And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America.

16 is a one stop source for op eds written by the technocrats.

17 Larry Cuban, The Blackboard and the Bottom Line: Why Schools Can’t Be Businesses (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Diane Ravitch, “The Myth of Charter Schools,” New York Review of Books, November 11, 2010.

18 Nelson Lichtenstein, “The Long History of Labor Bashing,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 6, 2011.



21 For a brilliant and brief take on this, see Frederick Clarkson and Frank Cocozzelli, “The Randian Fault That Could Shake Conservatism,”, May 2, 2011.

22 Kim Phillips-Fein tracks how big business regrouped around this argument after World War II in Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (New York: Norton, 2009).

23 “The Impact of State Employment Policies on Job Growth: A 50-State Review, ” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, March 2, 2011. “U.S Chamber Study Shows States Could Create Nearly 750,000 Jobs and 50,000 New Business By Streamlining Government Regulation,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, March 2, 2011. 

25Gordon Lafer and Sylvia A. Allegretto, “Does ‘right-to-work’ create jobs? Answers from Oklahoma,” Economic Policy Institute, February 28, 2011.

26 “About,” American Legislative Exchange Council.  “Private Enterprise Board Members, as of December 2010”

26 The Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Committee circulates these bills, listed on ALEC’s website.

27 Beau Hodai, “PublicopolyExposed,” In These Times, July 11, 2011.

28 The Transport Workers Union offered a handy summary of bills passed and not passed in the spring.

29 “Steven Nelson, “Indiana’s labor fight similar to, but different from Wisconsin’s, ”The Daily Caller, February 23, 2011.

30 Tony Perry, “Republican Governors Take Aim at Teachers Unions, Other Public Employee Unions,” LA Times, November 18, 2010.

31 You can find the clip from March 9, 2011 on

32 James Sherk, “The New Face of the Union Movement: Government Employees, ”Heritage Foundation, September 1, 2010, An American Enterprise Institute scholar argued unions were too weak to diminish free market dynamics,

33 James Sherk, “Time to Restore Voter Control: End the Government-Union
Monopoly,” Heritage Foundation, February 25, 2011. Over at the Heritage Foundation, visiting fellow Jonah Goldberg laid out the same argument. Jonah Goldberg, “Public Unions Must Go,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2011.

34 Brody Mullins and John D. McKinnon, “Campaign’s Big Spender,” Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2010.

35 Randy Albelda, “Teachers, Secretaries and Social Workers: The New Welfare Moms?” Dollars and Sense, May/June 2011.

36 Steven Pitts, “Black Workers and the Public Sector,” UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, April 4, 2011.

37 Tracked daily by .

38 “Saving the Middle Class: Hundreds Rally at USW Headquarters for Workers in Wisconsin, Country,”, February 24, 2010.

39 “William Solway, “Americans Oppose Republican Attack on Unions in Poll Divided Over Benefits,” Bloomberg, March 9, 2011.

40 “Favorability Ratings of Labor Unions Fall Sharply,” Pew Research Center for People and the Press, February 23, 2010,; Abby Scher, “Still Looking for the Union Label: A Making Contact Radio Investigation,” September 2, 2009.

41 David A. Lieb, “Efforts to curtail private-sector unions faltering,” Associated Press, May 9, 2011; ; Mary Ellen Klas, “Senators reject Rick Scott’s pitch to fight unions,” Miami Herald, April 27, 2011.

Abby Scher is a sociologist and former editorial director of PRA. She also served as PRA’s interim research director.