As a registered TownHall.com lurker, I often receive automated emails from them intended for their ludicrously credulous target audience. Most are trying to sell gold coins, but many are openly political spam, pediculous with breathless right wing invective. Recently, I received a particularly repellent bulletin allegedly written by delusional tea bagger and Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, with the fanciful subject line, “Sign the petition Obama fears.” This loathsome missive has been bouncing around the internets since Paul issued it in January in support of the National Right to Work Committee‘s petition demanding an “up or down” vote on the National Right to Work Act, a Chamber of Commerce wet dream designed to stamp the life out of the American labor movement.
Paul’s letter opens with the only true statement in the entire document: “They snickered when I said I came to the U.S. Senate to change Congress.” The rest of the letter is chock-a-block with ridiculous distortions and outrageous lies:
“As you know, the right to decide freely whether or not to join a union was taken away from American workers by Congress almost 75 years ago.
A result of back-room deals between union bosses and their tax-and-spend Congressional puppets, compulsory unionism provisions in federal law currently empower union officials to:
- Force nearly 11 million Americans to pay tribute to a union boss to get or keep a job …
- Brazenly loot union treasuries to fund the election of their hand-picked political puppet candidates like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid …
- Terrorize workers and communities with violent strikes — where they get away with beatings, arson — even murder.
“The fact is for decades union officials have schemed to seize billions of dollars from their ‘members’ and then used it to elect their candidates to protect these privileges.
This is how Washington — from Jimmy Carter to Ted Kennedy to Bill Clinton to Nancy Pelosi to Barack Obama — got to be what it is today…
“Every year Big Labor siphons over $8 BILLION from workers’ paychecks; mostly from workers who, if they refused to pay, would be fired from their jobs.
Union bosses take this eye-popping heap of dough to feed a lifestyle of limousines, penthouses and raw political power.
And, my friend, Big Labor’s political corruption costs all of us: Hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts and bloated government spending suck the life out of our economy, rewarding failed businesses like GM and letting union-boss featherbedding and rigged contracts rocket the cost of schools, hospitals and roads through the roof. Millions more good-paying jobs destroyed or driven overseas as union czars cripple America’s bedrock industries with wasteful work rules, hate-the-boss propaganda and violent strikes. You and all Americans robbed of your wealth as the economy stays in recession and the price of cars, gasoline and groceries climbs upwards. Small businesses strangled with red tape and bureaucracy designed by greedy union flunkies to kill companies too small for so-called union ‘organizing.’”
How can I phrase this diplomatically? Let see… Oh yes, Rand Paul is goddamn liar.
Apart from the irony of blaming “compulsory unionism” for dozens of negative consequences attributable to corporate excess, not to mention his preposterous pretense that he is advocating on behalf of American workers, this audacious screed is breathtakingly arrogant in its misrepresentation of the role and history of labor unions.
The National Labor Relations Act that Rand Paul claims infringes workers’ collective right “to decide freely whether or not to join a union” was in full force from 1935 until 1947, when the Taft-Hartley Act amended it to (among other provisions) make closed shops illegal. NLRA, or the Wagner Act, was proposed in large part as a reaction to severe labor unrest in prior years, and by establishing the legal status and rights of labor unions, the immediate effect was a substantial reduction in labor unrest.
Even after the Taft-Hartley amendments outlawed closed shops, “union shops” (which permitted hiring only dues-paying employees) remained, but only under severely restricted circumstances. To become a union shop, employees must approve it by majority vote, and the employer also has to agree. After such approval, new hires are not required to join the union, but to pay at least the dues sufficient to cover the costs incurred by the union in representing them in collective bargaining and for other services. Taft-Hartley expressly prohibits requiring employees to pay any amounts that might be used for political purposes or for organizing efforts. And workers can at any time hold a vote to de-authorize a union shop clause. Furthermore, states are specifically authorized to enact their own “right to work” laws, which nearly half of all states have already done.
Even the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (which is circulating the petition Paul is supporting), an organization which claims to have been “defending America’s workers from the abuses of compulsory unionism since 1968″ also states on their website that “no employee in the United States can legally be required to be a full-dues-paying, formal union member.” After decades of union-busting, membership has fallen to less than 12% of U.S. workers, a 70-year low .
The Tea Party’s crowning achievement has been to cast the notion that “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” into an actual political movement. Having tested the waters with ignoramuses such as George W. Bush, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin and finding that a sizeable chunk of the electorate doesn’t know enough to detect their appalling ignorance, they are poised to exploit that ignorance to their own ends. Rand Paul knows quite well that his followers don’t know that union membership is already at an all-time low, or that union violence peaked well before NLRA was enacted and has fallen off ever since, or that no worker is required to support any political campaign with union dues. Reality is thus a plastic thing that can be reshaped to suit his purposes, and he can lie with absolute impunity. Indeed, that license to lie is the very core of both his strategy and mission.