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Celebrate Labor Day By Celebrating Labor

10:45 am in Uncategorized by CenterLeftOrg

From DonkeyHotey on Flickr

There is a reason why we have a day called “labor day” and not one called “corporation day.”  We do not dedicate a day to the social and economic achievements of entities like Walmart or McDonald’s because they are not the workhorses that built the country. Organized labor created a way for workers to stand up against oppressive businesses and corporations who wished to exploit them.

It has been no secret that union membership has been in decline over the past few years. Union membership, as a percentage of the workforce, reached a peak of 28.3% in 1954. In 2012, this number was at a 11.3% which is the lowest it has been since 1916.

“Right to Work” laws (RTW) are certainly part of the blame for low union membership. States with Right to Work laws on the books boast some of the lowest union membership numbers in the country. For example, Florida was the first state to enact this type of law in 1946 and in 2012 saw only 5.8% of the total employed workforce as union members. North Carolina, which passed their RTW law in 1947, had only 2.9% of the total employed workforce were members of a union, the lowest in the country. These laws create no incentive for workers to unionize because free-riders can reap the benefits of a union contract without having to pay dues.

Another reason could be related to corporate perception of unions and the ideologies that those in the corporations hold. Take Massey Energy for example.  Massey used to be one of the largest producers of coal in the country before being bought out by Alpha Natural Resources. The former CEO of Massey, Don Blankenship, was actively opposed to unions in the mines. Only 1.8 percent of the Massey workforce was unionized. Massey had a reputation for being union-busters, was prone to firing union workers and refusing to hire others (which the NLRB determined was illegal). A potential consequence of this attitude was the loss of 25 miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010, a mine that was not unionized.

Union mines are safer than non-union ones, because the workers can protest working in unfair conditions and have a union rep accompany them to inspect the mines. Just to give you an idea of the safety comparisons for non-union and union mines:

A report from the March 28, 2007, hearing on Protecting the Health and Safety of America’s Mine Workers released by the House Committee on Education and Labor contains the following statistics for the five-year period of 2002-2006:

Underground coal injuries: 19,282

In union mines: 5,362 (or 27.8% of total)

Underground coal fatalities: 109

In union mines: 22 (or 20.2%)

Coal mines are not the only place union membership is actively discouraged and fought against, several other industries face this as well.

This Labor Day remember the fight for fairness that organized labor made and is still making today. Corporations are too big for individual workers to have a voice. A balance still needs to be struck in the workplace and individual corporations and state governments have been working hard to tip that in favor of anyone but the workers. Read the rest of this entry →

Right-to-Work? Wrong For Workers

11:16 am in Uncategorized by CenterLeftOrg

Crossposted from Centerleft.org

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder doesn’t like unions.  Neither does the Republican-controlled legislature.  So last December, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that Snyder and the Michigan Republicans slammed the state with “Right-to-Work” laws, laws that essentially tear away at the footholds that unions have in Michigan.

So what are right-to-work laws, and why don’t they work?

Right-to-work laws prohibit labor unions and employers from entering into contracts that only employ unionized workers for the jobs in the contract.

Workers in states without these laws who are covered by a union contract can refuse to join the union and then pay the fees associated with the workplace bargaining.  States with Right-to-Work laws require union contracts to cover all workers, not just the ones who are members of the union.  This allows employees to be “free-riders” and receive the benefits of the union contract without having to pay their share of dues and fees to the union.  This corrodes the power of unions, because those who do not pay can still reap the benefits.  Thus, there is no incentive for people to pay union fees.  This slippery slope eventually leads to workers having little to no bargaining power due to unions being unable to financially support themselves.

Many people, such as good ol’ boy Rick Snyder will say that Right-to-Work laws prevent forced unionism.  This is not true.  States without Right-to-work laws do not force employees to unionize, because federal law strictly prohibits such wrongdoing.

Unions in Michigan are suffering because of these laws, and have been pursuing legal action against them.  One suit, filed jointly with the ACLU and Michigan unions, seeks to invoke a violation of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

That suit seeks to overturn both right-to-work laws, alleging the laws were passed in an undemocratic process that violated the state Open Meetings Act. On December 6, 2012, the plaintiffs point out, the Republican-controlled state legislature locked Capitol doors to bar some journalists and members of the public from entry.

“Because the statute was enacted while the public was being locked out of the capitol,” explains ACLU of Michigan staff attorney Dan Korobkin, “the law should be invalidated, which is a remedy provided by the Open Meetings Act itself.”

Source:  In these Times

However, the Michigan Attorney General has continued appealing to dismiss the suits against the RTW laws.

Michigan unions and workers need to keep fighting these laws.  When you take away the unions, you open the door for complete control from the businesses, corporations, and governments that insist on having their way with workers.  These Republican-driven laws in Michigan have waged an assault on collective bargaining.