Conservative Group Honors Labor Day in Worst Way Possible

Conservative Group Honors Labor Day in Worst Way Possible
Source: Getty Images

The news: Labor Day is supposed to be about celebrating America's workers and the contributions they make to society — but this conservative group went about it in a completely wrong way.

On Friday, conservative think tank Freedom Foundation announced its plans to keep its employees working on Labor Day due to its opposition to organized labor. The work-in was designed to raise awareness of right-to-work laws, which would allow workers to opt out of union membership or payment.

"If you're going to pay tribute to something, why not the freedom to keep your job even when you choose not to join a union? I can't think of a problem in society that can't be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, and it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf," Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe wrote on the organization's website.

"At the Freedom Foundation, we celebrate freedom of choice and transparency -- ideals the labor movement has vowed to oppose. Consequently, we've chosen to spend our holiday honoring the right-to-work movement instead," he continued.

Why this is misguided: As ThinkProgress' Igor Volsky points out, the efficacy of right-to-work laws has been heavily debated, with critics pointing out that they dilute unions' — and, in turn, workers' — collective bargaining power. In 2012, the Economic Policy Institute pointed out that right-to-work laws might actually do more harm than good:

Before 2012, indiana had no right-to-work laws, unlike the other Midwesterns states in this chart
Source: 
EPI

And while proponents might argue that states with right-to-work laws can attract big corporations looking to pay lower wages, the increasingly competitive, globalized labor market makes this point moot.

Leaving aside the economic debate over the benefit of right-to-work laws, perhaps the most troubling aspect of this incident is that an organization took away its employees' right to a federal holiday for the sake of advancing its ideological stance.

The Freedom Foundation might sincerely believe that unions hurt workers' rights. But forbidding its own employees to take a deserved day off was not the best way to make its point.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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