The Spin-Art Tent

It occurred to me today that life is like the Spin-Art Tent at the county fair.

When you’re young, it’s like when you first come into the tent and you see all the examples of finished “artwork” they have hanging there, and you can’t wait to try it and you plan for where you’re going to put your reds and your blues and your greens and your yellows on those shiny little white cardboard rectangles, and you can’t wait for your turn, but everybody in line ahead of you seems to be taking so long; it’s taking like 20 minutes for each person! What’s taking them so long?

And then finally you’re grown up and it is your turn, and you line up those plastic ketchup-bottles of paint, each one upside-down in its own little holder, and you pay your money and hit the start button. And then 10 seconds later the spinning stops and you’re old and it’s somebody else’s turn, but the payoff is that only now, at last, do you get to lift it up and see what a mess you made.

Language and Labor

When you let the wrong side grab the right language, you’re sunk.

Two huge cases in point: Americans long ago yielded the “Right to Life” title to anti-abortion zealots — hardly any news media call them the “anti-abortion” group, which is all they are — while anti-labor zealots are universally referred to as favoring the “Right to Work.” Abrams Predicts: It won’t be long before the anti-labor gang forms its own political party, as the anti-abortion folks did years ago. Hey, the “Right to Work Party”? Who wouldn’t vote for them? Who doesn’t think all decent Americans have the Right to Work?

George Orwell would be proud.

We cede political power to special interests whenever we start calling them by the name they give themselves (this usually involves “the Right” to do or have something, even when their goal is to limit the rights of the majority).

We have the right to life, yet we stand in reverence before the so-called Right to Bear Arms, which results in the taking of 30,000 American lives each year.

We have the right to decide whether and when to bear children, yet we let the “Right to Life” gang force women to bear unwanted children.

And now we have, in far too many states, the so-called “Right to Work,” which forces employees at organized workplaces to bear the costs of union representation for those who enjoy the benefits of that representation but refuse to bear their share of the costs of it. (Some of those benefits: raises, sick pay, vacation pay, bereavement pay, overtime pay, holidays and personal time off, job security, enforcing of contracts, and educational, charitable and social opportunities.) In other words, so-called “Right to Work” laws force union members to support freeloaders.

Agency-shop clauses (the ones so offensive to the “Right to Work” gang) do not require anyone to join a union; they simply require everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay to the union, an amount equivalent to dues. So if you don’t believe in unions, don’t worry! You don’t have to join! You also won’t be able to go to union meetings, speak your mind about working conditions, or vote on the contracts it negotiates for you. But you WILL get all the benefits of those contracts. That’s the law. That’s the way it is now. But that’s what the anti-labor forces in Indiana, Wisconsin and other states are taking away from working people: fair play and a stronger voice.

Rarely mentioned in discussions of the so-called “Right to Work” laws that are metastasizing now, is the fact that agency-shop clauses (the ones requiring nonmembers who benefit from a union’s contract, to pay the equivalent of dues to the union that negotiated it for them) are not imposed by unions on the workers, but are themselves negotiated during the bargaining sessions, by a bargaining team elected by the workers.

Not bearing your share of the cost of union representation is simply saying that the price of democracy is too high for you. But the enforced imposition of such freeloading is what Through-the-Looking-Glass Republicans today are calling “Right to Work laws.” And by accepting that name for their evil schemes, the news media — and all of us — are just as culpable as they are.