In rural Chester County, Pa., about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, thick fog swirls around the trunks of knotty trees. This piece of 18th-century farmland could, by all outward appearances, be one of the misty forests of Middle Earth, the setting of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings fantasy novels.
The right-to-work legislation that was passed, and signed into law, in Michigan this week has been called a staggering blow to organized labor. Such laws allow workers to refuse to join a union and pay union dues, even if they're employed in a unionized workplace. Twenty-four states now have similar laws but Michigan, as the home of the U.S. auto industry, is considered one of the foundries of the American labor movement.