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Tuesday Talk: How do we reframe “Right to Work”?

February 14, 2012 By Katie Sanders, Interim Communications Director

Progressives need a better way to frame the so-called “Right to Work” legislation that has resurfaced at the State Capitol this session. While RTW is decades old, we still haven’t come up with a better, more accurate name. We can’t beat conservatives by fighting them with own language. Rather than “Right to Work”, we suggest calling it “Fewer Rights at Work”. What do you think?



Progressives should rebrand “right to work” as   _______________________________________.

It should be called this because  ______________       


Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Lisa Torvik says:

    February 14, 2012 at 8:15 am

    It should be “Right to Starve” because first of all it does not provide or promote any more “work.”  RTW leads to to fewer high-paying jobs; less control, if any, over one’s work situation and wages; and thus ultimately to deprivation of workers.  There is no “right” granted here.  In truth, hard-won labor rights are taken away.

  • Steve Share says:

    February 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I think the other side already reframed “Right to Work.” They’re now calling it “Employee Freedom.” How do you encouragel people to oppose “Employee Freedom”?

  • James T. Benda says:

    February 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

    New slogan:  Need to Work
    1)Because every man & woman has a need to survive!
    2)Because most men & women have a family to protect!
    3)Because work can produce products made here at home!
    4)Because work can produce better infrastructure!
    5)Because work can produce a healthier home economy!
    6)Because work will produce more tax revenues! 
    7)Because more tax revenues may support a stronger country!
      And you don’t need any more reasons than these, but to seek the common good for all men, women and children of this country!

  • John says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:00 am

    “Right to Work” is really “Right to Freeload”. It would be like saying I shouldn’t have to pay taxes because I didn’t vote for my mayor, but I still get all of the services such as police, fire, public works, social services, etc. Unions in Right to Work states are required to represent all the employees covered by the contract, but those who choose not to “join” the union don’t have to pay dues.

  • Heidi says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I’ve heard it coined “Right to Work for Less” which I think is pretty good.

  • Rachel says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Submitted to MN2020 via email:

    How about “Right to Work for Less”

    Progressives should rebrand “right to work” as Workers’ right to representation__.
    It should be called this because _workers aren’t required to join the union.  They’re just required to support the workers who collaborate with management to create a contract that serves the needs of both parties.

    Right to Starve or Right to Work for Less.

    “Right to work for nothing”
    “Right to work for cheap labor”
    If you use their words and tag on to the end you can subvert the message in people’s heads. The right to work is a strong tag line, not sure your suggestion neutralizes that.

  • geothermaljones says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Reich to Work…ers


  • Nancy says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I favor the “work if corporations want you to” bill.  The proposal really gives corporations the power to deny unions and to hire and fire at will.

  • Greg Kapphahn says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I suggest “Protect the 1%.”

    This reframing cuts through all the arguments over unions, fair wages, and the resentment of workers who can’t abide being told they must pay a fair share of union dues,...

    (even though, without those dues, their wages would soon drop to levels far below what their current wage minus those fair share contributions equal,...

    but whose sympathies often lie with the very managers and owners who would lower their wages to such levels because they share their dysfonic resentment over being told what to do by anyone under any and all circumstances).

    Avoiding all those issues, calling this the “protect the 1%” bill gets at exactly who’s been pushing for this change, who would benefit, and who would be damaged by it.

  • Laura hedlund says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Right to work FOR LESS

    This is easy to understand.  From meat packers to pilots, Americans from all walks of life are dealing with declining wages.

  • David says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:17 am

    War on Wages, or War on Worker Rights

    You have to hand it to the right, they produce creative and violent language that would make Orwell proud, i.e death tax, job killers, war on Christmas, etc.  Lets get with the program!

  • Paul Conklin says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:18 am

    How about anti-bargaining legislation? That seems to be the heart of it. 

    Or maybe race to the lowest wage legislation? Worker isolation legislation?

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I see a lot of heavey whining on this site, are you that worried that if this gets on the ballot you are going to lose? If you do you can thank your gutless union leadership for selling out thier own concept. More tha 45 years of steady missteps ever since White Collar, public employee, proffesionals were allowed to call themselves union. Their present hold on power in the DFL adds to that charge. Their failed leadership during Reagans PATCO union busting event undermined all real blue collar unions. Blue collar unions knuckeling under to this white collar arrogance over non union issues, sold the rest of the union movement down the toilet. Then we have the thieving “Steelworkers Union” on the range that has consistantly failed to even meet inflation in every contract since the late 1960’s. What do Unions have to brag about here folks, I am still working for the same wage I got back in 1978 even though everything else has quadrupled in price. Tell me again just what have unions done for us in the last 50 years? Where are your great gains in this time frame? Oh ya, the Teamsters were brought under Federal control, great PR.

  • Dan says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

    How about, “No Rights At Work”?  Without adequate representation, workers are ripe for the plucking for being overworked, underpaid, harrassed and having their issues and concerns be completely ignored.

  • Paul Harder says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I tend to prefer “right to work for less” because this is a part of a much larger effort to supress wages in the middle class. I know that this is one of a package of anti middle class legislation put out bt ALEC but it is also a part of a much longer running attack on wages.

    As middle class wages go down those in the middle class can’t affort houses, cars, vacations etc. That makes labor much less expensive for the 1% “job creators” therefore much more money in their pocket…  but the rub is…

    Economists say that the economy won’t come back until housing does. OK, how do you buy a house when your income goes down? How does the economy come back until wages come back?

    We are headed toward a two class society and the so called right to work law is one more cannon in the class war against the American public (less the 1%).

    The economy killing “right to work” law is really the right to work for less law…

  • ChristeenStone says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:52 am

    How about “Back to slavery”.
    When you are owned by the corporation that employees you and loose your right to protest their ownership, doesn’t that make you a slave??

  • Linda Owen says:

    February 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Employer Freedom Amendment ... post your ideas on Twitter, #rebrandrtw.

  • Rachel says:

    February 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Also submitted to MN2020 via email:

    Fair Wages for Fair Work

    Progressives should rebrand “right to work” as “No Right to Work.”  It should be called this because that’s what it is.

  • geothermaljones says:

    February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Right to Shirk Corporate Responsibility

  • James Berka says:

    February 14, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Right to Steamroll Workers.  It is really about weakening unions so that employers ultimately will have less employees in unions and thus less people to negotiate with.  It seems deeply unlikely that employers are deeply concerned about the rights of workers in the work place.

  • geothermaljones says:

    February 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Right to Shirk Corporate Responsibility!

  • Ed Schwarz says:

    February 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Rebrand “Right to Work” as “Poverty for All.”  Legislation supporting union organizing and increased minimum wage increases can be called “Living Wage” legislation.

  • Leo Babeu says:

    February 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Race to the Bottom;
    Right to be Working Poor and Proud;
    Right to ‘No Employee Rights”;
    The “Erasing the Middle Class Wage” Act; and of course, Right to Work for Less.
    Lots of ways to frame the legislative issue:
    The motive of Right to Work laws is to lower a new generations expectations and codify the lowered playing field. Supporters want to divert criticism away from employers and economists who would blame workers’ “unrealistic” expectations and organizing efforts for post-industrial American capitalism’s permanently high unemployment and systematically depressed wages and benefits.

  • TONY says:

    February 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Well I see Bill is still complaining about his job. I have a friend who is a member of the same union Bill belongs to & I just got to see his new truck. If your still making the same wage as you were in 1978, there are other jobs. Yes, middle class wages have been flat since Reagan came in. Yes, when one union went out all the others would go out or at least not cross the lines but with only 9% of people being in unions, they have lost most of that clout. What have they done in the last 50 years, unionize healthcare works, teachers, public employees, hotel employees and more. Only through activism by the union members are unions strong. What have you done for your union? Oh, and they support every Democrat that has ever run. Ask Romney & Ron Paul what they have done to support the middleclass & unions…

  • B Wheeler says:

    February 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    How about “Republican’s Right to Lie to Workers” ? The intent of the amendment belies the title. Similarly they are lying about ‘Employee Freedom”: it is all designed to drive down wages, take away the ability to bargain or have representation, hire/fire without any reason whatsoever and without recourse, etc. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the national minimum wage, the overtime differential pay, the 40-hr. work week, health care and other benefits, and completely dismantle all gains for workers by unions. One of the most egregious parts of the legislation is requiring that someone who doesn’t vote at all either way on a union question to be counted as a ‘no’ vote. That is so undemocratic! If you don’t vote in elections, that is not a vote against all the incumbents and candidates. There is no other kind of vote where if you decide not to vote, it counts as ‘no.’ So this amendment is really a “Wrong for Workers” amendment—only good for the 1%.

    As others have said, you have to hand it to the radical right-wing strategists who think up these titles and brands: their words always subvert the actual intent of the legislation but they cloak it in words that sound so ‘logical’: a modern-day ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ tactic. Other examples: “Right to Life” (but no right for the mother to live, if her health or welfare are at risk), “Defense of Marriage” (defending only a particular kind of union), “Election Integrity Project” (vote suppression against people who generally vote more often for Democrats), etc.


  • Anonymous says:

    February 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    The Right to be Exploited Act

  • Francis Lemke says:

    February 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    “Right to Work” (RTW) is just another way to drive wedges among all workers in general. Companies, corporations and individual employers organize unceasingly to find ways to get the job done cheaper. Yet, they would deny workers of all kinds the right to organize for better wages, better benefits and safer working conditions. RTW will not benefit workers in any way but, it can destroy decades of work to improve the laborers wages, benefits and conditions. Other States with RTW are in no way better off for having it. In fact, RTW makes workers a wide open target for any business which would like to reduce its cost of labor. One thing is for sure: your job, wages and benefits will be less secure with RTW because unions and collective bargaining will be thrown out. Workers need to stand together.

  • Dean says:

    February 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    How about calling it “Slavery II: the Sequel” or “Right to Weaken Work” ?

  • Jon says:

    February 14, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Call it Union Busting because that’s what it is. The conservatives are the ones who’ve re-labeled it RTW.

  • andre says:

    February 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    “In our glorious fight for civil rights,we must guard against being fooled by false slogans as ‘right to work’ it provides no ‘rights’and no ‘works’ it’s purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…
    We demand this fraud to be stopped”
              Martin Luther King Jr.

    stop the right to work scam this war against labor unions have been going on since president abraham lincoln
    get informed we need to join hands with michigan there web site is quite useful and has these quotes and messages that is simple and tells us how to fight with the facts and the right message.

  • Rachel says:

    February 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    One more email submission:

    Either “right to starve”—or better yet, “slave-wage state”.  Ditch their framing altogether, trying to pivot from it merely reinforces it.

  • Mike T. says:

    February 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Right to work is fine.  Is it union busting? Sure.  It doesn’t bother me though.  I belong to the teachers union and they only do a few things well: 1) make sure ineffective teachers are protected through a seniority based system, 2) don’t effectively negotiate higher wages (not that I’m in the poor house) and, 3) ensure that all teachers receive the same pay (based on seniority, not effectiveness) no matter what subject they teach or the demand for certain skills in the private sector.  “Poverty for All” is taken; our leaders at the White House have been attempting that for the last three years.
    The Pursuit of Happiness.

  • Rachel says:

    February 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    From Doug (via email):

    Right to be screwed because that what management does to employees who are not protected by a union.

  • Rick says:

    February 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    “Right to still vote for anybody other than a current day Republican.”

  • Rachel says:

    February 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    From Diane via email:

    Few Rights at Work
    Any Rights at Work?

  • Johnny says:

    February 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    “The Right To Be Poor”!Sounds like slavery to me.

    Gives me and many others the right to vote the republicans out of here! Come on Nov 2012! NOT FAST ENOUGH!

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    February 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I agree with you and Andre that “The right to work for less” is the best choice.  It exposes the lie and therefore the truth, and is a slogan already in use by workers and their supporters.

    For more information on the organized fight against unions, folks can google “anti-union effort in the US.” It has been extant since at least the early ‘80s, with Reagan as its first famous practitioner.  Now, “labor relations consultants” earn kabillions helping corporations prevent organization or weaken or kill their current unions.

  • Robert says:

    February 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    You might say:  Right to Work is Wrong.  It means right to work for whatever an employer wants to pay.  Agree with others…right to work for less.  Right to work for low wage. Right to give up your right to have a say about your wage.

  • Dan Kimmel says:

    February 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Right to Stiff Your Co-Workers
    Right to Lose Your Job
    Right to Give Your Employer Ultimate Power Over You
    Right to Work For Less
    Right to Work Without Support
    Right to Work Unsafely
    Right to Work Without Benefits
    Right to Work Without a Contract
    Right to Work for Years and Then Lose Your Job and Pension Because You Got Old
    Right to Die Working

  • geothermaljones says:

    February 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    China is Right to Work…
    You have the right to work where ever you can find a job…
    Don’t like how they treat you here, move along… anyone with any skill can find work.
    Remember, in China, if you’re one in a million, there’s another 1500 just like you.

  • andre' says:

    February 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    thank you bernice smile we need to all blast the right with the facts !! this right
    -to work(for less)scam should be called out   in that fashion at all times and correct any body that state it otherwise   it’s a scam,a false slogan ,con game ,smoke and mirrors ,dangerous wage killer,all they want to do is pay you minimum wage or even less ,no healthcare ,benefits it’s signing your soul with the devil ! tell the republicons it’s an un-American right to work for less scam that is taking our country back a 100 years check out missouri they’re fighting back

  • Lee says:

    February 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    It is easy enough for teachers to escape the union ... simply opt to teach in a private school. You can then avoid all of these problems that you perceive as being created by the union.

  • B Emmel says:

    February 15, 2012 at 12:11 am

    These measures sent out by the American Legislative Exchange Council should be called “Right to Starve” bills. These freeloader measures are promoted by the ultra wealthy in efforts to drive American workers to their knees. They won’t be happy until a U.S. worker makes the same wages as a 9-year-old in Bangladesh. There has been an onslaught against unions since passage of the Taft-Hartley Law which severely restricted the actions of unions and actually required that union leaders take an oath saying they weren’t communists (struck down by the courts). Now the corporatists are going after public workers since they don’t want anyone setting a standard for pay and benefits. The “gated community” class has already mentioned an unhappiness with child labor laws and the minimum wage. There is class warfare being conducted right now. Lets get into the fight!

  • Nat Case says:

    February 15, 2012 at 12:15 am

    It’s really a tough one, because it gets at the heart of a problem with unions in general: they have to be tough and maintain discipline if they have a chance to stand up to the management. And this stands in contrast to our national self-image as independent free-thinkers. How many other places must you be a member of a voluntary organization in order to participate in a free market?

    As a thought-exercise as much as anything, could we turn this question upside down, and ask if there’s a way we could restructure other laws around a law that means you may not enforce union membership as a condition of employment?

    One way is to do as the French have done, making it nearly impossible for an employer to fire ANYONE. This has other consequences though, like permanently high unemployment.

    Another is to create a “safety net” much more like Scandinavian ones, so losing one’s job isn’t nearly so much of a disaster. Lose your job? It doesn’t mean you lose your health insurance or your (modest) house. In this situation, firing is less of a threat.

    It’s not a bad thing inherently to make unions have to sell themselves to their members, like public radio has to regularly put out membership drives. And if a union CAN’T maintain it’s membership, it’s clearly not doing its job…

    The question/problem is, how to open up unions to “competition” for employee loyalty, without giving management so much leverage it can just undo all the union’s good work. If it can’t be done, then the larger system of our economy is inherently rigged against ordinary workers.

  • Lloyd Hansen says:

    February 15, 2012 at 12:36 am

    I think that “right to work for less” says it most straight forwardly. The counter framing term would be “right to a living wage.” People thus choose the right to work for less or the right to a living wage. Seems like an easy choice to me.

  • Andre' says:

    February 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

    bingo Lloyd ! that’s how you flip the script to your side smile yes everyone believes in a right to work ,then you finish the narrative “a right to work for a living wage that’s why we should raised the minimum wage to $10.00 a hour” and you will hear crickets lol

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    February 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

    We do not, however, live in a real “free market.” That too is a myth. We are, or soon will, achieve the form of fascism called corporatism—the symbiotic marriage of corporate power and government.

    Corporate power to use money to affect elections is now so great that many of our senators and representatives vote to pass legislation pleasing that power instead of helping the ordinary people who voted for them.  Otherwise, they will get no giant donations in the next election cycle.

    We seem to have hundreds of billions of dollars available to bail out crooked bankers who intentionally made loans they know won’t be paid back. All they had to do was bundle them with a number of good loans and sell the bundle to Fannie/Freddie or some other unsuspecting financial institution.  Notice, however, that the banks didn’t use any of the bailout money to pay off or refinance the mortgages of their victims. It was pure corporate welfare.

    There are also the kabillions over the past several decades given to corporations as incentives to hire people or continue a polluting industry like coal instead of establishing a clean one.

    Meanwhile, the Right rails against poor people with hungry children receiving food stamps and opposes taxing the rich to help our economy recover—and with that recovery would come demand for goods and services and the jobs created to meet it.

  • Mary Anne Page says:

    February 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    It should be called “No Rights at Work” for obvious reasons.  The single worker alone has no power in the workplace.  In a coalition with one’s fellow workers, there is some power to balance the hiring and firing power of the management.

  • Rachel says:

    February 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    More comments from email:

    Interesting question. When I talk about this issue i often speak of dignity the dignity of the workplace. Respect is another way to look at it.

    “Workers’ Lost Rights” aptly describes what happens in “right to work” states. “Fewer Rights at Work” is not simple or clear enough and it’s not catchy.

  • Nat Case says:

    February 15, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Unions are mostly about employees of large organizations. Not much point in unionizing a 4-person business… unless you’re structured as an industry where everyone is a freelancer.

    The point is, this is “right to be a powerless cog in a machine” because if you don’t want to be a cog, look for work in small businesses. Or join a union with some teeth to it.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    February 16, 2012 at 8:37 am

    The only real power is in ownership with control. Unions have taken us as far as they possibly could. In fact White Collar unionism has taken us places we should never have gone. Only worker ownership puts us truly in charge of our own destiny. Of course the big change then is that you must participate or get left behind, as opposed to having someone else do your thinking for you, (the Union model). The biggest differance is that worker ownerships do nothing to promote, protect, or defend the lazy and the useless in the name of worker rights, ( a great past example of this was a practice we use to call “Passing the Trash” pushed by the Teachers Union).

  • Rachel says:

    February 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Comments via email:

    No Rights for Workers

    Instead of rtw, “anti-union”
    It makes it harder to form and join unions.
    It fits alongside their anti-marriage and anti-voting efforts.  They are working hard to have fewer marriages, fewer people voting, and fewer unions.

  • Dan Conner says:

    March 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Call it:  Repeal of Worker Rights

    That’s what it is.  Her our country passed all sorts of laws to enable corporations, which is no natural phenomena.  Then, these corporate contrivances seek to take away human rights.  That’s a distortion of democracy and freedom.

  • Karl Leuba says:

    June 9, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I take this seriously, it’s a policy issue that directly affects economy at all levels.  And the Right to Work is what it is. 
    In Arizona Article XXV of the State Constitution was added by voters in about 1954.  It can only be repealed by either initiative or referendum.  What is needed is an Employees Bill of Rights Amendment In Arizona and Statute where the Right to Work is not woven into the State Constitution.

    So, what I am suggesting to re-frame the issue is the title

    Workers Contract rights

  • Right to Exploit says:

    June 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    But we can’t repeal right to work laws simply by giving them a different name, though we might see even worse passed under the Workers Freedom banner.

    Swindlers never call their schemes swindles.  So, to repeal the “Right to Work” law it is better to re-frame the meaning of the title. 

    Right to work means Right to Exploit.