by Danielle Cralle and Doug Foote
This morning, the Supreme Court ruled that state-paid home care workers cannot be required to pay fair share fees to a union, despite benefiting from the union-bargained things like higher pay and better job training.
Although the decision doesn’t get rid of fair share in the public sector completely, it’s still a blow to Illinois home care workers who depend on strong union representation to negotiate for better working conditions.
How does this affect homecare workers?
The decision means that, in Illinois, unions representing homecare workers will have fewer funds to negotiate for things like quality training and supplies, higher pay, or better working conditions; additionally, there’s less money to pay for legal help, staffing, and other costs of union representation. Like a “right to work” law, the decision is a roundabout way of defunding unions.
Under the Illinois union contract (the subject of the original court case) home care aides saw their wages increase from $7 an hour to $11.25 an hour. The wage is expected to increase to $13 an hour by December. Without a fair share fee to ensure that all who benefit share the cost, worker victories like that may not be feasible.
Who is behind Harris v. Quinn?
The plaintiff is an Illinois home care worker named Pamela Harris who opposed her colleagues voting to join SEIU. But, the case got all the way to the Supreme Court thanks to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF), a Virginia-based non-profit that claims to fight “compulsory unionism.” NRTWLDF is the nonprofit arm of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC).
The list of donors to both groups reads like a “who’s who” of powerful conservatives: the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, the Walton Family [of Walmart] Foundation, , and the John M. Olin Foundation.
NRTWC does extensive lobbying across the country to weaken the voices of union workers. They were big supporters of Scott Walker’s union-busting budget, and their lobbyists were on the ground in Indiana and Michigan to help pass those states’ “right to work” laws.
NRTWC also spent $7 million on ads during the 2012 election.
This case was never about whether or not Pamela Harris should have to pay her fair share fee, it’s about powerful people with corporate interests finding yet another tactic to weaken unions.
Why you should care – even if you aren’t in a union
More than a dispute over who should and shouldn’t pay for union representation, this was big business’ attempt to cripple the American workforce. This decision, as a result, not only affects the union and its members, but all workers.
There are two ways to look at this:
- Your rights and conditions as a worker could suffer. Studies show that unions set the standard for all workers, even those who aren’t part of a union. Because of this, when something negative or positive happens to a group of organized workers – i.e. union members – you can bet that you, a non-unionized worker, will be impacted as well.
- The decision could affect the quality of public homecare services in Illinois. According to The Hill, under the previous negotiated union contract, “the state has improved training, reduced turnover, and increased control over the quality of its providers.”
As a community member, home care is a critical public service. This decision weakens the homecare workforce in Illinois, and it could mean a drop in the quality of services that you or a family member relies on.
Photo by fischerfotos via Flickr.
Tags: Harris v. Quinn, Right to Work, unions
Last night, the Missouri House of Representatives approved a bill that would make it harder for union workers to make their voices heard in the political process. Known as “paycheck deception,” House Bill 1617 places unnecessary restrictions on how union workers’ paycheck deductions can be used. Like many other anti-worker bills introduced around the country, House Bill 1617 is based on an ALEC model bill.
Does this story seem familiar? It should. The Republican-controlled Missouri House passed an almost identical bill almost exactly one year ago.
Again, the bill was introduced (SB 29 last time, HB 1617 this time). Again, there was enormous outcry from labor unions, community members, and the faith community. Again, debate on the floor revealed that the bill’s sponsors were unfamiliar with current paycheck deduction laws, which render “paycheck deception” laws redundant. Again, they didn’t care, because ALEC wrote the bill anyway, and because hurting labor unions is in their political interest. Again, it passed.
If ALEC did a remake of the movie Groundhog Day, it would look a lot like this.
But in this version, there were two major changes.
First, this version refers the issue to the 2014 ballot. This is because last year’s attempt at paycheck deception was vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, and despite controlling twin supermajorities in the legislature, the bill’s proponents were unable to get enough Republican votes to override.
Second, this year the bill lost even more Republican votes, a tight 83-70.
This mimics a trend in the Missouri Senate. While SB 29 passed the Senate on a near party-line vote last spring, two conservative Republicans opposed it when it came back around for an override attempt in the fall: Senator Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) voted no, while Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington) “took a walk” and was absent (a tactic often used to express passive opposition).
So why is this happening? It seems that for a number of Republican lawmakers, and for even more of their constituents, the ALEC-backed anti-worker agenda is getting tired. As the economy continues to struggle, the continued pushing of narrow, corporate-backed policies at the expense of job-creation policies–like Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage–is making less and less sense.
“A lot of Republicans don’t want anything to do with these bills, because they’re afraid the issue will come back to bite them in the end,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, “They’re right.”
“There’s more and more of us on the Republican side who realize that labor is not the enemy,” said Republican Representative Anne Zerr. Rep. Zerr has opposed both paycheck deception and “right to work” in her caucus, and spoke at a rally opposing “right to work” last week. A former utility worker, Rep. Zerr stressed that she is doing her best to turn her caucus in a different direction. “We are educating our own,” she told the crowd.
But for now, HB 1617 moves next to the Missouri Senate. If the trend continues, that might be where it stops.
Learn more about “paycheck deception” bills.
Tags: ALEC, Jay Nixon, Missouri, paycheck deception, Right to Work, Rights At Work
Politico Magazine released a comprehensive report comparing all 50 states using 14 different indicators of quality of life. In their ranking, the five bottom states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama) are all so-called “right to work” states.
Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.
Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.
The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.
As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.
A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)
But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work” states rank in the bottom 20.
The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.
As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.
Tags: Alabama, ALEC, arkansas, louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Right to Work, Rights At Work, Tennessee, Vermont, wages
Pennsylvania Republicans are pushing falsely titled “paycheck protection” legislation that would take away rights from workers and keep them from having good wages and benefits. The legislation would hamper workers’ ability to organize unions and represent themselves in negotiations with employers, leaving them open to any number of assaults on salary, benefits and working conditions. The legislation would prevent the deduction of union dues from public employee paychecks and is supported by groups related to the infamous Koch brothers, wealthy extremists who are behind many attacks against working families across the nation.
But Pennsylvania’s workers are ready to fight back. More than 2,000appeared at a frozen rally Tuesday in opposition to the legislation. Many of those in attendance weren’t members of the unions potentially affected by this legislation. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO reports:
One of the rallies erupted outside the front doors of the Capitol, where more than a thousand workers were literally frozen out of the event in the nearly sub-zero temperatures because Capitol police claimed the crowd had exceeded capacity limitations in the Rotunda. PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder was handed a bull horn by Capitol Police and the nearly frost-bitten crowd had their own impromptu rally on the Capitol steps as Snyder explained the implications of the Koch brother’s-inspired anti-labor legislation.
Supporters of the bill say taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for such payroll deductions. As usual with anything associated with the Koch brothers, this reasoning is dishonest, because taxpayers don’t actually pay the minimal costs associated with making such deductions, those costs are included in contracts negotiated between workers and their employers. In fact, paycheck deductions are very standard from people who choose to make United Way contributions, retirement contributions, etc.
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder told the crowd the real reason behind the legislation:
The supporters of this attack claim this is all about restoring ethics to government. If this were all about restoring ethics then perhaps they would stop trying to prevent the uninsured from gaining access to affordable health care. If this were about ethics they would support raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits to unemployed workers who are still looking for a job. No this isn’t about ethics, this is all about distractions, more smoke and mirrors and playing political games instead of solving our problems: creating jobs, expanding the middle class and putting Pennsylvania back to work. We won’t be fooled.
While the legislation currently being considered only targets public employee unions, there is little doubt that success on this legislation would lead to further attacks on the rights of working families. The Pennsylvania federation said:
Don’t be silent on this issue. We expect this bill to move very quickly, with significant resources flooding into Pennsylvania to back this latest attack on the middle class.
Residents of the Keystone State who support working families and oppose this legislation should take actionand email Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and their state legislators.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, collective bargaining, paycheck deception, Pennsylvania, Right to Work, Rights At Work, Tom Corbett
Missouri Republicans are attempting to pass “right to work” for less legislation and, despite claims that the legislation is “pro-business” and will “help” the state’s economy, they can’t seem to think of one person or business the law would actually help. The state’s speaker of the House, Tim Jones (R), was recently asked at a press conference to name businesses that would benefit from the law. His answer:
AFSCME noticed the speaker’s response and created the above image and created a webpage to help expose the admission from Jones that the law doesn’t actually help Missouri’s businesses. On Facebook, AFSCME posted the image with this caption: “We’ve created this simple website so you can see if there are any companies in your state that stand to benefit from Right to Work.”
Clicking on the link leads you to a humorous site that is definitely laughing at Jones and his extreme allies, not with them.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, afscme, Missouri, Right to Work, Rights At Work, speaker tim jones, Tim Jones
The editorial board of the Salem Statesmen Journal, one of the most influential newspapers in Oregon, is not messing around.
Their piece on the coming fight over making Oregon a so-called “right to work” state goes right to the point: this law is bad for Oregon, and the only reason we’re talking about it is because of deep-pocket out-of-state special interests.
Don’t know what a “right to work” law is? The editorial kicks it off with a succinct definition:
Under right-to-work laws, employees in unionized workplaces no longer can be required to pay unions for the cost of being represented. That’s the sum and substance of right to work, in one sentence.
These laws, passed in 24 states, have nothing to do with protecting those who have a job from losing it or granting anyone who needs a job the right to find it. Yet the phrase persists, because political factions that back such legislation aren’t courageous or honest enough to call them what they are.
Right-to-work is a misnomer. If proponents were straight with us, they’d call these transparently vindictive efforts a “Right to Weaken Unions Act” or a “Right to Punish Those Who Oppose Us Measure.” The laws drain money from unions under the guise of creating a more business-friendly environment for states.
As we’ve written, the national “right to work” effort sputtered in 2013. In Oregon, Portland attorney Jill Gilbson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative intended for the 2014 ballot. “There’s national money to be had,” she told the Associated Press, mentioning “large donors” who would back her. But 2013 saw little movement for Odell’s effort, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber has already stated his opposition.
Yet Oregon remains a top target for national “right to work” backers. “[It’s] as if a big red X has been affixed to a map of our state by outside influences who have decided in secret that we are to be the next target in their misinformation campaign,” the editorial board writes.
Odell’s claims may indeed pan out, and the anti-worker initiative could get the big dollars it needs to get to the ballot. In that case, the Statesmen Journal has a simple suggestion:
The misinformation campaign is coming. Right-to-work proponents are expecting you to roll over and play dumb. We suggest you sit up and become informed.
Here are some real facts to get you started:
- States with “right to work” laws have lower average wages than free bargaining states. Workers earn an average of $1,500 less annually in “right to work” states.
- Fewer workers have employer-based health insurance in “right to work” states. There are also higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities in these states.
- Research in favor of Oregon’s “right to work” initiative is deeply flawed (and funded by the same donors who are pushing the policy in the first place.)
- Businesses don’t use “right to work” as a primary factor when deciding where to locate.
Learn more about “right to work” laws at WrongforEveryone.com.
Photo by NSNewsflash on Flickr
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Oregon, Right to Work, Rights At Work
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
Tags: ALEC, Eric Burlison, Jay Nixon, Jobs, John Kasich, john kitzhaber, Josh Mandel, Michigan, Mike Bell, Missouri, Mitt Romney, Ohio, Oregon, Paid Sick Days, paycheck deception, Right to Work, Rights At Work, SB5, Tim Jones
It’s not a memory I’m fond of.
But one year ago, I remember watching news reports as the governor of my home state, Rick Snyder, emerged from police barricades after signing the so-called “right to work” bill into law in Michigan.
The whole thing was like a bad dream. Gov. Snyder had said for years that so-called “right to work” — restrictions on union dues aimed at weakening workers’ voices at the workplace — was not on his agenda. Then on December 6, 2012, he changed course, and called on the legislature to pass “right to work.”
With lightning speed, the Republican-controlled legislature went to work. There were no committee hearings, highly unusual for a major bill like this. The bill text was almost identical to an ALEC model bill, but that didn’t seem to faze the legislators.
On December 11, as more than 12,000 Michigan workers raged outside the state house, the bills for both public and private sector workers are passed despite bipartisan opposition, and Gov. Snyder had signed them into law by evening.
That was not a fun day.
After that fight, Working America pledged to continue the fight in Michigan and we have.
Will you stand with us to continue fighting into 2014?
December 11, 2012 was a rough day. But we know what it takes to win in Michigan: hold leaders accountable for their votes, mobilize a team of activists in communities across the state and support candidates that stand with working families.
The assault on my home state hasn’t stopped there. Gov. Snyder, the Republican-controlled legislature, and emergency managers like Detroit’s Kevyn Orr continue to impose a narrow, corporate-friendly agenda on Michigan without regard to the lives and livelihoods of Michigan’s working families.
With your help, we can fight back against the extreme agenda that Gov. Snyder has pushed through and make Michigan the state we all know and love again.
We’ve seen a lot of things we value come under attack in Michigan lately, but we don’t have to stand for it. With your help, Working America can make a difference in Michigan. Help us fight back now.
We really can’t do this without you.
Tags: Detroit, kevyn orr, Michigan, pensions, Rick Snyder, Right to Work, Rights At Work, secure retirement
A new editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlights the recent revelations about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its influence on state legislators. In particular, the editorial takes umbrage at a proposed loyalty oath for ALEC members that would have required them to place the extremist pro-corporate organization above the needs of constituents and the state and national constitutions:
Last week, British newspaper the Guardian published a series of stories based on secret ALEC documents obtained by reporters. Among the most insidious items was a loyalty oath the organization has proposed for the state chairs of its legislative members.
It reads: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”
Imagine that, a Republican like state Sen. Ed Emery of Lamar, a man who claims to be a constitutional conservative, putting ALEC first, over his voters, over his oath to the state, over the very constitution he claims to value.
Mr. Emery, the current ALEC chair in Missouri, is already demonstrating his loyalty, filing an ALEC-inspired bill to erase teacher tenure in the state.
The former ALEC-chairman for Missouri, current Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, is doing his part, as well, supporting anti-union right-to-work legislation for 2014 even while pushing through special session legislation intending to lure thousands of union Boeing jobs to the state.
The editorial takes a strong stance against the influence of ALEC on the state:
Missouri voters should consider such front organizations as offensive to democracy.
Mr. Emery and his ilk can believe what they want, but they should play no part in allowing corporations to hide their agendas, and their lobbying expenses, by pretending to be something they are not. The proof is in ALEC’s actions, which, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank outlined, hid itself behind closed doors in a meeting last week in the nation’s capital, pushing reporters away while claiming they had nothing to hide.
No, ALEC exists solely to hide. To hide money. To hide agendas. To hide its hijacking of democracy.
Read the full editorial.
Tags: aflcio, ALEC, Missouri, Right to Work, Rights At Work, Saint Louis, Tim Jones, voting rights
Extremist pro-corporate Republicans in Missouri are getting an early start on attacking the rights of working families by pre-filing a “right to work” for less bill for the 2014 legislative session. While there undoubtedly will be similar attacks in other states in 2014, Missouri is the first state to take formal steps to strip working families of their rights.
This isn’t the first time that “right to work” legislation very similar to model bills created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been proposed in the state—similar legislation was proposed earlier this year and in 2011. Peter Kinder, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, spoke in favor of the legislation at an ALEC conference in August.
The We Are Missouri coalition is leading the opposition to the legislation. Through a press release, several members of the coalition explained why the legislation was wrong for Missouri.
Mike Louis, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO:
Missouri’s elected leaders should work together to create jobs here in our state. While it isn’t a surprise that extremist politicians would instead file a ‘right to work’ bill on the first day of session, it is shameful that they would make this unnecessary and confusing bill their first priority for 2014. It is time for our elected officials to work together to create good jobs and safe work places instead of trying to micromanage relationships between businesses and their employees.
Bobby Dicken, a utility line crew foreman from Poplar Bluff:
It is simple—“right to work” bills are wrong for Missouri. It’s a corporate power grab that’s in the best interests of CEOs—not our state. Studies have shown that ‘right to work’ means less jobs, lower wages and more dangerous workplaces. I’m disappointed that [Southeast Missouri] area state Rep. Donna Lichtenegger and Speaker Tim Jones seem to be more concerned with doing the bidding of special interest groups like ALEC instead of helping middle-class Missouri families.
Vicki Hurt, who works for the Missouri Children’s Division in Branson:
This bill won’t create a single job. These unnecessary attacks on working people hurt our middle-class families, harm our public schools and put our safety at risk. ‘Right to work’ is a divisive partisan political issue meant to punish labor unions that puts our everyday heroes in danger.
Tell Missouri legislators: we need more jobs, not fewer rights.
Tags: aflcio, Missouri, paycheck deception, Right to Work, Rights At Work