How The “Right to Work” Movement Fell Flat On Its Face in 2013

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A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.

Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.

And then, nothing.

Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.

Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.

“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.

In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.

In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.

But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.

“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.

Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.

In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.

The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.

At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.

Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.

What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.

Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.

In Oregon, the story is even shorter.  An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.

What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.

Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.

Photo by detroitfreepress on Instagram

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Man Interrogated, Suspended for Dressing as Boss for Halloween: Punching In

Worker at Georgia distribution center got more than he bargained for when he went as his boss for Halloween.

Teamsters are bringing the case to the National Labor Relations Board.

Richard Trumka tells Beltway journalists the truth about populism.

Sad news: National Labor College closing its doors in 2014.

Pressure builds for the Obama Administration to halt deportations.

Inside the lives of Bangladesh garment factory fire survivors. #solidarity.

Why there should be a woman on your board of directors.

Finally: Everyone in Texas should know what Senator John Cornyn did on Thursday.

In Newark, You Can Be Fired for Taking A Sick Day. In 2014, That Will Change.

The paid sick days movement rolls on, right into 2014.

On January 8, Newark, NJ’s City Council will vote on a paid sick days proposal. The measure is expected to pass.

The bill would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 they worked, requiring employers to provide up to five paid sick days a year for their employees, who could use the time for their own illnesses or that of their family members.

Advocates estimate that 38,000 Newark workers don’t have access to a single paid sick day. That’s a lot of potential people who are, for instance, preparing or serving food while sick, simply because they had no other option.

Newark is following the lead of Jersey City, whose mayor Steve Fulop signed a paid sick time ordinance into law in October.

In the past year, New York City and Portland, Oregon have also enacted paid sick days laws. Massachusetts is likely to send a paid sick days measure to the 2014 ballot. Legislatures in Oregon and Vermont expect to take up the issue in earnest when they return early next year.

Of course, there are so-called “pro-business” groups who oppose these laws. But they voices of workers like Derick Swaby, a cabin cleaner at Newark Airport, cut through the noise:

“For me and for all the workers, we need paid sick days,” said Swaby, 55, of Newark. “You need days to recover when you’re sick without having to worry about losing money. Right now, I’m compelled to go to work when I’m sick, because if I don’t go, I don’t get no pay.”

A Newark victory early in 2014 would lend momentum to efforts in Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, and nationwide.

Photo by New Jersey Working Families on Facebook

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Senate Passes Lopsided House Budget, Unemployment Insurance Extension Still Up in the Air

The U.S. Senate passed the House bipartisan budget agreement (64–36) last night, sending it to President Barack Obama, who has signaled he supports the package.

As we reported last week, the House budget averts another government shutdown and temporarily relieves some sequestration budget cuts but leaves long-term jobless workers out in the cold and inflicts further harm on federal workers, who have sacrificed more than enough to budget-cutting already.

In a statement earlier last week on the budget plan, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the deal “provides temporary relief from sequestration budget cuts over the next two years but does not represent the clean break from budget austerity that our economy so urgently needs.”

Trumka said it is “shocking” that congressional Republicans “have refused to include an extension of unemployment benefits” in the budget agreement. At the end of December, federal unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million jobless workers—while lawmakers are home for the holidays.

Call 1-877-318-0483 and tell your representative to extend unemployment insurance now. 

This morning at Politico’s Playbook Breakfast with Mike Allen, Trumka said Democrats need to step up and fight for policies that help the working class like unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage.

The video of Trumka’s interview is available here.

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Something Cool is Happening at T-Mobile Memphis Store and It’s Not a New Data Plan

Last week students from the University of Memphis Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) Local 68, courageously took over a local T-Mobile store to deliver a holiday message to the company. Watch these brave students as they face down the vicious management reaction and peacefully deliver their holiday message.

After you watch the video, please share it.

In the fall semester, USAS started a national campaign to support T-Mobile workers’ organizing. There are more than 25,000 T-Mobile workers across the United States who currently face high-stress working environments, arbitrary management, yelling and abuse and a brutal ongoing company campaign to prevent workers from joining together to seek changes at work.

Students were appalled to learn that many universities have deep commercial ties to T-Mobile through purchasing, service and infrastructure contracts, making their schools important corporate clients. Outraged that the universities would continue to give money to an abusive employer, they have taken action to demand that several universities cut their contracts with T-Mobile. Now they are speaking out to tell T-Mobile to respect its workers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.  Teresa Casertano contributed to this post.

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MSNBC Hosts Should Speak Out Against Union-Busting At NBC-Owned Company: Punching In

Murray-Ryan budget now goes to President Obama for his signature.

But what about 1.3 million Americans who will lose unemployment benefits on December 28?

How Wall Street banks dodged a new regulation in the new budget deal.

Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon targeted by corporate “right to work” pushers.

The investigation into flagrant workers’ rights violations at Amy’s Bread continues.

Ohio’s Secretary of State John Husted still blindly pursuing “voter fraud” while ignoring real election problems.

Related: Dayton, Ohio charter operator accused of fraud.

Amid fields of plenty, California farmworkers struggle against hunger and poverty.

Wow. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg really showing his true colors as he leaves office.

Finally: What are MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Sharpton, and Chris Hayes doing about union-busting at an NBC-owned company?

Put a Stop to This: Bad Credit? No Job for You!

Today’s jobless workers face new discriminatory barriers to finding work in a broken economy. Some employers won’t consider out-of-work applicants for job openings. And more and more employers run credit checks, leaving long-term jobless workers, who have likely fallen far behind in their bills and seen their credit scores tank, on the streets.

Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to stop employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their credit history or disqualifying applicants based on a poor credit rating. Says Warren:

Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness—let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.

Even as the economy is slowly turning around, the recession and financial crisis continue to take a toll on working families. Many of whom are hardworking, bill-paying people who have seen the credit ratings damaged when they or a family member lost a job or a small business and saw the value of their homes plummet. Savings evaporate and payments get missed. Says Warren:

Most people recognize that bad credit means they will have trouble borrowing money or they will pay more to borrow. But many don’t realize that a damaged credit rating also can block access to a job.

While at one time it was common belief that a credit history could provide insight into a perspective employee’s character, Warren says that recent research has shown that an individual’s credit rating has little or no correlation with his ability to succeed at work. A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected personal crisis or economic downturn than a reflection of someone’s abilities.

She also says, “This is one more way the game is rigged against the middle class.”

A rich person who loses a job or gets divorced or faces a family illness is unlikely to suffer from a drop in his or her credit rating. But for millions of hardworking families, hard personal blow translates into a hard financial blow that will show up for years in a credit report.

People shouldn’t be denied the chance to compete for jobs because of credit reports that bear no relationship to job performance and that, according to recent reports, are often riddled with inaccuracies. Click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of The Equal Employment for All Act.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the bill in the House late last year.

Photo via U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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UAW, GM Team Up to Make It in America

Another great win emerges from autoworkers and industry collaboration. General Motors Co. (GM) will invest more than $1.3 billion to upgrade and expand five manufacturing plants in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana that also will create or retain more than 1,000 jobs, GM and the UAWannounced Monday.

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who represents GM workers, calls the investments a “win for American workers.” He says:

The UAW is proud to be a part of this successful collaboration with GM that has helped rebuild the nation’s economy, created good paying, union jobs in communities across the country and brought manufacturing that was moved overseas back to the United States. This is further proof that collective bargaining works.

In 2011, when the UAW negotiated new contracts with the Big Three automakers, the union won commitments from General MotorsFord and Chrysler to invest more than $27.3 billion in their plants, creating 20,000 new jobs at the three automakers and thousands more in the industries that are part of the auto manufacturing supply chain.

At the ceremony at GM’s Flint, Mich., truck assembly plant announcing the investment, GM North America President Mark Reuss told the cheering workers:

These investments are a sign of our confidence in our workforce and our UAW partners that have given and tried so hard and in our vehicles and the continued demand for excellence in each one of these products. You earned this.

Since the auto industry was on the verge of collapse during the Bush recession, car makers and the UAW have worked closely in forging a partnership that was instrumental in securing the financing in 2008 and 2009 that kept the industry alive. Working together not only kept the auto industry afloat and saved tens of thousands of jobs, the negotiated investments like Monday’s GM announcement have opened the doors to good middle-class jobs.

Ashton notes that while income disparity grows in the country and the middle class declines, collective bargaining has created a ladder to the middle class for millions of America’s workers.

This announcement today is further proof that collaboration and collective bargaining works and will continue to be the way that we rebuild America’s middle class.

At the Flint ceremony, Barry Campbell, chairman of UAW Local 598, said he was “proud to pay my union dues, and this is just a great example why.”

GM’s nearly $1.3 billion investment includes:

  • $600 million in Flint Assembly for facility upgrades.
  • $493.4 million in Romulus (Mich.) Powertrain Operations.
  • $121 million in Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly for a logistics optimization center.
  • $30.6 million in Toledo Transmission Operations for increased capacity for an existing six-speed transmission.
  • $29.2 million in Bedford (Ind.) Castings, which includes $22.6 million to produce components for transmissions.

For more on the success of the labor-management partnerships in the auto industry, read Labor Secretary Thomas Perez’s recent article on the UAW and Ford working together. Perez says that is just one example of how:

Across the country, creative labor-management partnerships are saving and creating jobs, keeping businesses competitive, growing the middle class and helping more Americans climb ladders of opportunity.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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D.C. City Council Passes Minimum Wage Increase, Paid Sick Days for Tipped Workers

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In Washington, D.C., there is great news for working families. The District of Columbia Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 and extend paid sick days to tipped workers.

The measures now go to Mayor Vincent Gray for consideration.

The minimum wage will increase in three steps to $11.50 by July 2016. Beginning in July 2017, the wage rate will be indexed to inflation, so that as the cost of living increases, so will the minimum wage rate. Prince George’s County (Md.) Executive Rushern Baker signed the Prince George’s County minimum wage bill today—the wage rate will rise to $11.50 by 2017. These wage increases in Washington, D.C., Prince George’s County and Montgomery County (Md.) are part of an innovative approach to raise wages in a region, with all three areas working together to pass these laws.

Read more on the D.C. minimum wage increase here and the victories in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Chattanooga Could Represent a Turning Tide for Workers in the South: Punching In

Pope Francis is absolutely crushing it. This time he takes on “mega-salaries.”

Is the South coming around to the benefits of unions? David Bonior sure thinks so.

“If workers secure formal representation with the UAW at the Chattanooga plant, it would result in a voice on the job and a stake in building the company’s future together. And yes, it could represent a turning tide in the South.”

Fear-mongering: Outside groups are actively dissuading VW workers from organizing.

Top 9 reasons why Walmart is shady boots.

Could the West, Texas plant explosion have been prevented?

On immigration, look to the states: a case for a bottom-up approach to reform.

What about the rest of the story? Ohio newspapers fail the “ALEC disclosure test.”

Finally: Could this be a trend? New Jersey proposes employment protections for unpaid interns.