The Watering Hole: Saturday, December 15, 2012 – What Is Right To Work Legislation?

Without unions there would be no middle class. I want you to remember that as we discuss just what is “right to work” legislation. Don’t let the name fool you. It does NOT mean that you have a right to any particular job, or that you can sue your employer just for being fired (whether you deserved it or not). What it really refers to is your right to work at a place without being forced to join a union. Before going into more detail about the concept, here’s a brief (less than 2 minutes) video on the history of unions. For a timeline of major events in union history, see here.

The year 1947 saw one of the most significant changes to union and labor law. Prior to that year, if you wanted to work at a place where the employees belonged to a union, you could be required to join that union and pay dues to it. (And that union could spend those dues on many things with which you may not have agreed.) There were exceptions, such as certain federal jobs (ironically), but closed shops were not unusual. You had to join the union and pay its dues to work there, and if you were no longer in the union (for whatever reason) you could be fired. In the 1947, the very pro-business 80th Congress, when both Houses were controlled by the Republican Party, passed the Labor Management Relations Act (nicknamed the Taft-Hartley Act) over President Harry Truman’s veto. For a “Do Nothing Congress”, they sure did a doozy with that one. They were a very anti-union Congress, and we should be grateful they didn’t pass more legislation.

You often hear that unionized places force people to join the union, but that’s not true (thanks to the Taft-Hartley Act.) State right to work laws force all unionized shops to become “open shops,” meaning employees cannot be forced to join a union. They also have the right to enjoy all the benefits that union workers enjoy. The union might fight for better working conditions for you and your fellow employees (it isn’t always about more pay), but whether or not you join the union you can, by law, enjoy whatever benefits the union wins. If they want, non-union workers can ask the union for help in dealing with their employer, and while they don’t have to pay union dues, they do have to compensate the union for acting on their behalf. But other than that, you can work at any non-federal place that has a union without being forced to join the union.

Now, you’re going to hear a lot of Republicans (like Michigan Governor Rick Snyder) say that right to work laws benefit workers and lead to more pay. Don’t believe it for a second. As union membership declines, so does middle class income. Without unions there would be no middle class.

As of this writing, the following 23 states have some form of right to work laws: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan(!), Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming. The latest addition to that list is Michigan. Nobody campaigned on busting unions in Michigan, even the governor. Why not? Because if they did, they would have lost control of the state government. (You can also thank some heavily gerrymandered districts for that. More people voted for Democrats than for Republicans, but because of gerrymandered districts, more Republicans were sent to the next Congress than Democrats.)

Ask any union member about right to work laws and they’ll tell you they should be called “Right to Work For Less” laws, because that is the ultimate effect of those laws. When workers enjoy the right to bargain collectively, everybody benefits, including the business owners. Again, it isn’t just about fair pay though that is often at issue, it’s about all working conditions. Unions, by fighting for higher standards for workers, businesses, families, the environment, and public health and safety, have helped to build the middle class and make sure the economy works for everyone. Are you eligible for overtime pay for working more than 40 hours? You can thank unions for that. Do you get paid sick days? Thank unions again. Is your work place safe? It probably wouldn’t be without unions.

Interestingly enough, both sides see this as a “Freedom of Assembly” issue. The pro-union side sees it as the right to assemble with those with whom you do want to assemble, and the anti-union side sees it as the right to not have to assemble with those with whom you don’t want to assemble. In other words, the pro-union side sees it as the freedom of assembly, and the anti-union side sees it as the freedom from assembly.

Without unions, if you weren’t a member of the very, very wealthy elite (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably aren’t, but I thank you for being here), then you would be among the very poor. It would just be the very few rich and the very many poor. If Republicans had their way, there would be no unions at all. The only way to stop them is to vote them out of office. But that will be difficult because they’ve done their best to rig the elections so that fewer people can vote who would vote against them. It is a strategy without honor, but so is the Republican Party. While the year 2020 is a long way off, it will be a very, very, very important year for elections. That is the year the next census is conducted, and as a result of that census, voting districts will be redrawn. If Republicans manage to win more seats around the country (and I’m not just talking about Congress, I’m talking about state legislatures, too), they will put the final nails in the coffin of Democracy. They will rig any and all elections so that they can never be voted out of power. We cannot let that happen, and we don’t have to wait until then. Start voting them out of office now. Make sure you are registered to vote and VOTE! And whatever you do, do not vote for Republicans. They lie. All the time.

[This post originally appeared on Pick Wayne's Brain and has been slightly modified.]

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, November 9, 2011: CRASH AND BURN!

In the end, it wasn’t even close. As of this writing:

The people chose unions over Republicans: 61% to 39%, with 99% of the vote counted in Ohio.

And Zygotes lost their bid for personhood, 58% to 42%, with 91% of the votes counted in Mississippi.

Of course, the next natural disaster to strike the U.S. will be God’s revenge for these votes. (/snark)

This is, unmistakeably, a clear sign that the Republican Agenda is not being accepted by a vast majority. Which means, of course, that Fox Gnus will spin this as a ratification of all things Republican.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD. TO GET THE DISCUSSIONS GOING: WHAT BALLOT INITIATIVES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE PUT UP TO A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE?

Watering Hole: September 5, 2011 – The Fighting Spirit

Let us remember what Labor Day represents.  We must stand together because the GOP is determined to destroy labor.  Their goal is to return to the days of lords and serfs.  The wealthy, Republican politicians push religion because religion was used to control the poor, starving serfs and peasants. Karl Marx was correct when he stated that “Religion is the opium of the people.”

A brief history of Unions…

And just how did we go from prosperity to austerity?

This is our Open Thread.  Feel free to Speak Up!  And if you have the time, scroll down the page.  There may be some new, interesting posts.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, August 10, 2011: Hump Day: Wisconsin Votes to Reaffirm its Committment to Destroying Unions

Not too long ago, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker, together with a Republican Controlled legislature, took unprecedented steps to destroy public unions in the State. The Unions reacted with massive demonstrations and a recall effort.

Tonight, the good people of Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly to support 4 out of the 6 Republicans targeted for recall, essentially giving a resounding affirmation to the GOP’S efforts to destroy unions across this country.

As of this writing, with all but a couple of precincts reporting, 183,215 Cheeseheads (and I use that term affectionately) voted for the Republican incumbant and 164,542 voted for the Democratic challenger.

So, Wisconsin, enjoy your victory. Kiss unionism good-bye and welcome in a brand new era of Corporate dominance.

This is our open thread. When’s the last time you looked for the Union Label?

I Knew It! I Knew It!

All along, I’ve had this… gut feeling… that the current ‘official’ hysteria over public pension shortfalls was a manufactured, exceedingly artificial narrative, and now Paul Krugman agrees with me…

Citing an analysis of state pension shortfalls done by Dean Baker, Krugman says, “the official story these days — of years and years of huge giveaways to unions, resulting in gigantic, unpayable debts — is just wrong…” and then goes on to point out how the shortfall is mostly the result of the 2007 Financial Crisis we’re only now starting to emerge from.

As you can see from the above graphic, courtesy of Mr Baker’s report, much of the current pension shortfall can be attributed directly to the stock & bond market plunges of two years ago, and accordingly a pretty hefty percentage of that should have been recovered due to the recent extended rally in the same markets.

Per Baker’s report, pension fund assets would most likely be $850 billion higher if the funds had earned a rate of return the last three years just equal to 30 year Treasuries, and an additional $80 billion loss can be pegged to lower contributions by the states due to lower revenues. A total of approximately $930 billion, or almost the entire shortfall, a trillion dollars, as projected by some analysts.

In addition, Baker states that the “size of the projected state and local government shortfalls… for the pension funds is less than 0.2 percent of projected gross state product over the next 30 years for most states. Even in the cases of the states with the largest shortfalls, the gap is less than 0.5 percent of projected state product.”

0.2 percent of projected revenues, in other words, 20 freakin’ cents on every hundred dollars, if Baker’s figures and analysis are accurate… and if they are, so much for all the ‘Chicken Little/Falling Sky’ nonsense we’re being subjected to right now.

One question I do have is how much of the loss in various public pension funds’ assets can be attributed to the stock market decline, and how much was due to the collapse of mortgage bonds? Neither Krugman or Baker dive into this particular pool of water, and in his report, Baker only talks about losses, gains, and rates of return for stocks. It is my understanding that Iceland’s financial collapse was, in part, caused by mortgage bond defaults. I am also under the impression that public pension funds are prohibited from purchasing securities deemed too risky and that when the bond sellers were able to get the ratings agencies to give their new fangled ‘ financial products’ a AAA rating, they were free to sell those ticking financial shit bombs to pension funds.

I shall do more research on that as time allows.

In the meanwhile, Paul Krugman agrees with me…

Whaddya know, we’re being sold a bill of goods.

The Watering Hole: Saturday, February 26, 2011: We are All Cheeseheads!

There are supposed to be Pro-Union rallies across the nation today.

In fact, this is what MainStream Media websites had to say about it on Friday afternoon:

As Madison impasse continues, schools eye layoffs

Tensions flare in Wisconsin after Assembly passes bill on union rights

Obama’s Promised March With Union Workers Fails to Materialize

Wisconsin Assembly Approves Bill Stripping Away Union Rights

Wis. Assembly passes anti-union bill

Wis. Assembly passes bill taking away union rights

Judging by all media sites, there are no rallies planned for today. In fact, other than Fox using this as another opportunity to bash President Obama, the rest of the media seems focused on the Wisconsin Assembly’s middle of the night passage of the anti-union bill.

If you want to find out more about today’s rallies you’ll have to look to a non mainstream source.

Unions made the Middle Class. But with a consistent voter turnout in the 30% range, ‘evangelical christians’ learned they could dominate elections by voting in blocks. Their church has become a powerful political machine, operating in shadows, electing “stealth” candidates, and now, they are coming into their own. Candidates espousing the ‘evangelical christian’ ideology are holding majority positions in State Legislatures across the country.

The Middle Class will pay a price for its complacency: a struggle for its very existence.

This is our daily open thread — as always, your thoughts on this, or any other subject, are welcome.

UPDATE:
The nation-wide protests did make the AP Press:

Protestors across US decry Wis. anti-union efforts

The Watering Hole: Friday, February 25, 2011

Don’t it Turn My Red States, Blue?

Unions, the Middle Class, the American Economy and the American Dream were dealt a fatal blow under President Clinton. To be sure, the mortal wound was not immediately fatal, nor even noticed. We were too busy investigating cigars and stained dresses. It went through both houses of Congress with over a 90% vote, so a veto was out of the question. And besides, Clinton was balancing the budget and paying off the national debt.

But there it was, festering in the background, leading to factory closures and job losses that never made the national scene: NAFTA. North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.

With a “Free Trade” Agreement, manufacturing moves to the least regulated environment, taking jobs with it. That is exactly what happened, and continues to happen. In a global economy without any protective tarrifs, American workers compete for wages against the labor pool of third world countries. They lose, and will continue to lose, until the standard of living, and wages, of workers in third world countries equals that of the American Worker. That means the American Worker’s standard of living must necessarily decline, while that of his or her third world counterpart increases.

The rich, on the other hand, increase their holdings no matter what.

The assault on the American Worker begain in earnest theses past few days, in Wisconsin. The only voices getting press time in the national media are those blaming unions for the decline of the middle class. They’re right, but for the wrong reason. Unions created the middle class. Their wage and hour demands didn’t break corporations, nor “force” corporations to ship jobs overseas.

No, it is the fault of Unions that they did not fight the fight they had to, years ago, to see to it that, while any Corporation may set up shop wherever it wants, Unions should have insisted that Corporations pay prevailing U.S. wages and abide by U.S. regulations regarding wages, hours, working conditions, benefits, and environmental protections, unless, of course, local regulations were more stringent.

By not fighting, to the point of national strikes, Unions have allowed their own downfall. The current protestations in Wisconsin notwithstanding, unless people go on a national strike, Unions and unionism will lose.

This is our daily open thread — as always, your thoughts on this, or any other subject, are welcome.

The Watering Hole: February 24 — Punking the Imperial Walker

Part 1:

Part 2:

I listened to the entire twenty minutes of this conversation — the things I suffer through for my Zoosters — and I am not going to ask the same of you.  Here’s a brief run-down:

Scott “Imperial” Walker, who is apparently notoriously unavailable to the phone, readily takes a call from “David Koch,” who is actually Ian Murphy of the BuffaloBeast.  I admit it, I was astonished to hear Scott Walker begin to report to “David Koch” as if it were nothing new or unusual.  It was absolutely mundane, run-of-the-mill ‘here’s what’s going down in Wisconsin’ reporting to his loathsome corporate over-lord.

 

Can an Imperial Walker get some walkies?

Ian Murphy as “David Koch” just allows Scott Walker (sorry, I won’t call him Governor) to ramble on and on, talking about his cleverness in stopping the paychecks of the Democratic members of his legislature, by a devilishly clever plan to lock the checks in their desks in the statehouse; blathering on about ‘agreeing’ to talk to the minority leader if all fourteen runaway members come back to the state, but it’s all a ruse to get a quorum, and dammit if those Democrats are too stupid to figure it out; and gushing one and on about how tough he is, and how he’s like Reagan dealing with PATCO and the Berlin Wall all rolled into one super-fabulous package.  Damn, the public sector union members in Wisconsin really don’t know what they’re dealing with, do they?

Walker is a guy who says Andrew Breitbart does “good stuff” and Joe Scarborough is “one of us,” so are we really surprised that he gleefully planned for his little union killing “bomb” to drop immediately after the totally awesome Super Bowl win by the Green Bay Packers?  It’s in the phone call with “David Koch,” people, I listened to the whole thing.

Here’s a gem, spoken by Walker himself:

This is about public sector unions.  You are actually having taxpayers money being used to pay to lobby for spending more of taxpayer’s money.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.

That’s rich, isn’t it?  Walker is funneling millions of taxpayer dollars — money Wisconsin apparently can’t afford to spend because of the looming “budget crisis” — to the very rich and big business, in the form of tax cuts.  But that’s A-okay, because as long as wealth is being re-distributed UPWARD, it’s not a fucking problem in Rightwing Fucktard World.

Bottom line:  What’s happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere is a coordinated effort by Republican governors to do the bidding of self-interested billionaires, who couldn’t care less about the “small people” in this country, and crush the unions and the middle/working classes in the United States, in order to wring the very last dollar out of our pockets and leave us a destitute Third World country.

What!?  Isn’t that a bit over the top?  No, not at all.  People like the Koch brothers no longer need customers to buy their wares.  They are too rich to care.  If their portfolios drop by a fraction or two because Americans are too poor to buy what they’re selling, they will simply pull up stakes and move to another country — and start all over again.

I’d say the Koch brothers et al are trying to kill us, but to do that they’d have to care.   They won’t actually kill us.  They’d rather leave us in poverty, to suffer like the scum they believe us to be — and that includes you, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Image source

This is our daily open thread, got anything to add?

Watering Hole – September 6, 2010 – Thank a Union

Labor Day – (from Wikipedia)

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 6 in 2010).

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City.[1] In the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with Labor as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.[2] Cleveland was also concerned that aligning an American labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair.[3] By the 20th century, all 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.

Labor Unions – How Unions Help All Workers (from a 2003 study)

Unions have a substantial impact on the compensation and work lives of both unionized and non-unionized workers. This report presents current data on unions’ effect on wages, fringe benefits, total compensation, pay inequality, and workplace protections.

Some of the conclusions are:

• Unions raise wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise compensation, including both wages and benefits, by about 28%.

• Unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree.

• Strong unions set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. For example, a high school graduate whose workplace is not unionized but whose industry is 25% unionized is paid 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries.

• The impact of unions on total nonunion wages is almost as large as the impact on total union wages.

• The most sweeping advantage for unionized workers is in fringe benefits. Unionized workers are more likely than their nonunionized counterparts to receive paid leave, are approximately 18% to 28% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are 23% to 54% more likely to be in employer-provided pension plans.

• Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than nonunionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage. In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer.

• Unionized workers receive better pension plans. Not only are they more likely to have a guaranteed benefit in retirement, their employers contribute 28% more toward pensions.

• Unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more total paid leave (vacations and holidays).

Unions play a pivotal role both in securing legislated labor protections and rights such as safety and health, overtime, and family/medical leave and in enforcing those rights on the job. Because unionized workers are more informed, they are more likely to benefit from social insurance programs such as unemployment insurance and workers compensation. Unions are thus an intermediary institution that provides a necessary complement to legislated benefits and protections.

Reasons why Republicans hate unions:  All of the above bullet points.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

Continue reading

Joe the non-Plumber Doesn’t know…

Well, well, well… Joe the dumber non-plumber doesn’t know a lot about everything and I doubt that he knows even a little about anything and yet, he continues to shoot off his big mouth. Thank you to MorrillMajority for taking the trip to Harrisburg and interviewing the conservatives’ puppet, Joe Wertzelbacher. I knew that I could count on you :) .

Senator Specter and the EFCA

As a resident of Pennsylvania, I felt it was my duty to contact my Senator, Arlen Specter and request that he support the Employee Free Choice Act. It shocked me, when I received an email response from him the very next day. During the Bush years, Senator Specter would never respond to my emails. All I would get from him was a generic response stating that he just didn’t have time to address all his email. In other words, he would just blow me off. Now, he seemed eager to get back in touch with me. Ha!

Below is the email that I received which is cross posted at Pennsylvania for Change:

Dear Pennsylvania Constituent,
After giving exhaustive consideration to the Employee Free Choice legislation, I have decided to oppose the bill for reasons specified in my Senate floor statement which is contained below or you may read here and watch here.

I remain open to working to correct the imbalance which exists with so many jobs being exported and substantial labor losses in areas like pensions and health care.

In my floor statement, I have also laid out some suggested revisions to the National Labor Relations Act which could provide the basis for correcting the current imbalance.

Sincerely,

Arlen Specter

Here is his complete floor statement which was included in the email…

Senator Specter’s full floor statement, including the appendix, follows:

I have sought recognition to state my position on a bill known as the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check. My vote on this bill is very difficult for many reasons. First, on the merits, it is a close call and has been the most heavily lobbied issue I can recall. Second, it is a very emotional issue with Labor looking to this legislation to reverse the steep decline in union membership and business expressing great concern about added costs which would drive more companies out of business or overseas. Perhaps, most of all, it is very hard to disappoint many friends who have supported me over the years, on either side, who are urging me to vote their way.

In voting for cloture – that, is to cut off debate – in June 2007, I emphasized in my floor statement and in a law review article that I was not supporting the bill on the merits, but only to take up the issue of labor law reform. Hearings had shown that the NLRB was dysfunctional and badly politicized. When Republicans controlled the Board, the decisions were for business. With Democrats in control, the decisions were for labor. Some cases took as long as eleven years to decide. The remedies were ineffective.

Regrettably, there has been widespread intimidation on both sides. Testimony shows union officials visit workers’ homes with strong-arm tactics and refuse to leave until cards are signed. Similarly, employees have complained about being captives in employers’ meetings with threats of being fired and other strong-arm tactics. Continue reading

Santa’s Workshop – You get what you pay for

There used to be a time, when workers and their unions fought for better working conditions in Europe and elsewhere. Newly imposed rules and regulations improved wages and working conditions. A middle class grew. People had more money and consumer spending increasingly became a major factor in the economy.

But, instead of choosing wisely what we bought, we wanted more and more of it. Cheap. Production of consumer goods shifted to poorer countries, where all the rules and regulations earlier generations of workers in our hemisphere fought for  do not count. From there competition came back to us. They work harder for less, working conditions and environmental standards don’t matter. We were told we had to deregulate to ward off the competition, we had to accept longer working hours and lower wages and will have to accept even more of that. What goes around, comes around. This video reminds us of our past, but may as well be showing our future.

We may be able to break this circle and create a new one. By buying consciously. It may be a choice of buying one small Christmas item instead of a whole mountain of stuff. But, in the end, it helps our own working conditions and by steadfastly demanding products which are produced with high ethical and environmental standards and by being prepared to pay more for those, we will positively influence the conditions elsewhere. What goes around, comes around. Buying wisely and with a conscience is an investment in our own future, too.

EV

Obama Speaks in Milwaukee

“We rise and fall as one nation. We value the family, and community and neighborhoods. Those are national values. Those are values we all subscribe to.”

I can only say Thank Goodness! that two-thirds of American’s are very concerned (47%) or somewhat concerned (17%) that McCain would pursue the policies of the Bush administration. This is up 2% from just ten days ago.

h/t: Steve Benen at The Political Animal. (If you’re not reading Steve’s fantastic work…GET ON IT!)

ILWU-Heroes

The International Longshore and Warehouse Workers need our support in their efforts.

In a major step for the U.S. labor movement, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has announced that it will shut down West Coast ports on May 1, to demand an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East. In a February 22 letter to AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, ILWU International president Robert McEllrath reported that at a recent coast-wide union meeting, “One of the resolutions adopted by caucus delegates called on longshore workers to stop work during the day shift on May 1, 2008 to express their opposition to the war in Iraq.”

Read on